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A Prayer Companion to the Psalms

Years ago I was tasked with writing a review of a daily devotional. I did read a number of the entries and made some general comments about the book overall. It occurred to me that even if I were to binge read the entire thing, I would never have the experience of doing so over the course of a year, the way the book was intended.

So also with Sheltering Mercy: Prayers Inspired by the Psalms by Ryan Whitaker Smith and Dan Wilt, I chose to focus on their rendering of the Psalms with which I had a lifelong familiarity as well as a few I did not.

In the introduction they State their goal.

…They are not translations or paraphrases. Neither of us pretend to be qualified for such a task Rather, they are responses — prayerful, poetic sketches — written in harmony with Scripture. We’ve taken to calling them free-verse renderings, which is just another of saying they are impressionistic poetry without the limitations of meter or rhyme…

What that did not prepare me for was the delightful discovery of how their iterations of prayers inspired by the Bible’s hymnbook were informed by other passages of scripture, including New Testament phrases which would have been unfamiliar to the Psalmists, as well as other writings. These are annotated in footnotes, though not all are. Perhaps a few of the citations were simply too obvious.

The book covers Psalms 1 to 75, so a second volume is definitely in view. One could read this in tandem to reading the book of Psalms or on its own. It could be used as a springboard for one’s own prayers, or even read devotionally.

I suppose few reviewers will omit to mention that Ryan Whitaker Smith is the son of Michael W. Smith. He is also a filmmaker who worked on the movie The Jesus Music, which I reviewed here a few months back. Dan Wilt has devoted his life to worship music, and all things related to that pursuit, including training others.

Again, rather than binge read my way through this, I want to keep the book handy where I can simply pick it up from time to time and be inspired by its words, even those pertaining to the Psalms I already covered in its pages; perhaps even seeing it as a resource, not unlike a commentary.

The video linked below is one of the readings with background music. Enjoy.


Thanks to Martin Smith of Parasource, the Canadian distributor for Brazos press for making me aware of Sheltering Mercy.

Vancouver Author Offers 3 Phrases That Can Change the World

What if learning to have three phrases always at the ready could make a gigantic relationship in our interactions and inter-personal relationships? A new title — releasing this week — from a Vancouver author may provide the key.

A lifetime ago, I remember years ago hearing some friends speak very highly about Rod Wilson when he was involved with the counseling program at Ontario Theological Seminary (now Tyndale Seminary) in Toronto. I’m sure people at the seminary were disappointed when he was suddenly off to Vancouver, where he became President of Regent College from 2000-2015. His bio states,

Rod currently works with Lumara Grief and Bereavement Care Society, A Rocha, the Society of Christian Schools in BC, and In Trust Center for Theological Schools, and maintains an international teaching and mentoring ministry. He is also a Senior Writer for Faith Today.

I wanted to share this book release information with readers here, so in the absence of a review copy, here’s the publisher information from NavPress.

Thank You. I’m Sorry. Tell Me More: How to Change the World with 3 Sacred Sayings

We all believe that saying, “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “Tell me more” will help us become better people, friends, partners, employees, neighbors, and global citizens. And yet, having been brought up on rugged individualism, we often slip into self-centeredness and a corresponding sense of entitlement. We have lost the ability to speak with gentleness toward one another. We have replaced kind words that connect us to one another with ones that divide, isolate, and hurt. Everywhere we turn there is deep conflict.

In this simple yet profound book, clinical psychologist Rod Wilson introduces us to the sacredness of these familiar but forgotten sayings. What impact do these sayings have on our relationships?

■ When we say, “Thank you,” we acknowledge the way others impact us.
■ When we say, “I’m sorry,” we acknowledge the way we impact others.
■ When we say, “Tell me more,” we acknowledge the way we impact each other.

As you engage with these three phrases more thoughtfully and speak them more frequently, you will enjoy a life full of deeper friendships and joy.

9781641584470 | 208 pages paperback | 12.99 USD / 17.49 CDN

 

Books of the Year

December is the month when Christian media confers awards of all types on Christian books. The choices are made by reviewers who inhabit an entirely different reading universe than both pastors and Christian retailers, tending to choose esoteric titles, and it’s probable that many of their selections are not available for sale in your store.

For example, check out the Fiction winners in the Christianity Today list, and the tied winner and the named finalist are both from publishers with which I am personally unfamiliar. Ingram lists 699 titles for She Writes Press, but Bookmanager confirms no designated Canadian distributor. One Bird Books has only two listed titles and they are short-discount.

CT has no such issues with the titles it recommends, simply providing Amazon links for all winning books.

At Englewood Review of Books, there’s no year-end list, but you see that same gathering of eclectic titles so popular with online reviewers. The write-ups are always engaging and believe me, if a store could toss economic considerations to the wind, some of these books deserve to be must-carry titles. It’s a question of finding the right audience.

The list at the Evangelical Christian Publisher’s Association (ECPA) is a reminder to look before you leap when consulting these lists, as their 2021 awards are actually for books published in 2020 or, as in a surprising number of cases, 2019. The list you want is the 2022 list, and CT designates its lists the same way. It’s list takes longer to materialize and doesn’t appear until May, and considers “titles published between October 2020 and October 2021.” Last year’s winner was Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, (WaterBrook) by Latasha Morrison. Again, not a title you may have carried, and probably more U.S. interest than Canadian.

Oddly, it was at ECPA’s news page, Rush to Press, that I learned that Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren was CTs Book of the Year.  So I went back to the CT winners list and sure enough, at the very bottom there is something that says, “Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year,” so I suppose there’s more to that header that one needs to know. The author is certainly deserving, especially after having her previous title hijacked by book pirates at Amazon, but hopefully IVP will eventually bring out a paperback for Prayers in the Night, at the very least for the international market, as some stewardship-minded consumers are still holding out.

Whether you’re a fan or not, you have to credit The Gospel Coalition for at least naming their awards in the correct year. Unless you’re in a strong Reformed market, you still may not have many of these, and the considered titles are going to be theologically narrower, but if there is a customer request, they are at least from publishers and distributors with whom you work closely.

Finally, for fiction lovers, The Christy Awards winners were announced at the end of October with a contemporary title, The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox (Revell) taking top honours. Click the list for yourself and you’ll see an absence of Amish titles, and the fiction that I call “futuristic” (which we classify as subset of “suspense” and “mystery”) they call “speculative.” Isn’t all fiction somewhat speculative?

Well-Researched Pastor Ignites Passion for Christian Books

I first met Jon Rising when we moved to our present home about 32 years ago. A native of Port Huron, Michigan, Jon has lived in Cobourg, Ontario, in Florida, and several years ago moved to Vancouver in order to complete a Masters degree in Theology at Regent College. Over the years, Jon has proven to be an excellent resource person on Pentecostal history (particularly the Latter Rain Movement) and Bible reference material. He’s been sharing a number of personal reflections on Facebook, and I thought that this one, with his permission, deserved to be here as well.

by Jon Rising

I started buying and reading books – lots of books – roughly 50 years ago. Few things have brought me as much pleasure. And I remember exactly how it got started.

It was prompted by the ministry of Pastor James Beall… [T]hough he was well-read, it isn’t that he advocated rushing to the bookstore and buying armfuls of books.

His ministry stimulated an interest in reading because I could tell his sermon preparation was more extensive than other preachers. He had information in his sermons that they didn’t.

In Pentecostalism, there are plenty of preachers who work themselves into a lather, but if you listen closely, that kind of preaching is trite and thin on insight.

If we make an analogy to eating, it’s like getting served nothing but boiled potatoes at every meal. Nourishing to a degree, but lackluster and with nothing to make you look forward to the next meal.

Pastor Beall, just like the great evangelical preaching mentor Haddon Robinson, knew how to set out a gourmet meal. The basics were always present, but it was also the presentation and spices that brought delight.

Biblical background information comprised a lot of his ‘extras.’ And I knew instinctively where he got that stuff – books. I mean, you can pray all night, but the Lord is not going to download the historical setting of ancient Middle Eastern people into your mind. The same with the literary devices they used or nuances of the languages they spoke. You get those extras – and much more – from books.

Since you and I didn’t live 2,000 years ago, we need the expertise of those who have carefully researched those times so that we may have a better sense of what the Biblical messages meant when they were first written.

It must have been that I said things to my mother and my pastor, Belle Barber, that alerted them to the fact that Jonnie was starting to think about things other than baseball cards and batting averages. I don’t really recall.

But, what I do recall is that on my birthday both of them bought me an uncommon gift for a 15-year-old (this happened without them consulting each other).

From my mother I received the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary and from Pastor Barber I received Adam Clarke’s one-volume commentary on the Bible. Those were good foundational resources for a teenager to begin serious study of the Bible. And I couldn’t have been happier.

That’s the sweet spot of gift giving, isn’t it?! When you give someone something that is both unexpected and yet the perfect item for them.

And so it began. After buying myself a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, additional acquisitions were determined as the result of thumbing through books in Bible bookstores and taking home what seemed to provide answers to questions that arose in my Biblical studies.

But, a novice book buyer might not know whether he’s taking home the writing of a fair-minded scholar or that of a polemicist with a theological ax to grind. Such a buyer might also have a difficult time discerning expert scholarship from shoddy scholarship so poor it does not deserve the label, scholarship.

In time, books by Joseph Allison, Cyril Barber, and David Bauer would become like trusted, constant companions. All three of them had written books recommending worthwhile Biblical study resources. That trio are not (and were not even then) the final word on what are worthwhile and trustworthy resources, but their books were a place to a start (especially so I would not go broke drilling, as it were, dry holes – i.e., buying books that just collected dust on the shelf).

Two big breakthroughs in the building of my library occurred when I acquired books by Edward Goodrick and Gordon Fee (I was an adult by this time).

Goodrick’s book, enticingly named, Do It Yourself in Hebrew and Greek: A Guide to Biblical Language, did not make me an expert in Hebrew or Greek, but it did, in addition to the rudimentary language information, point me in the direction of F. F. Bruce, who was back then the foremost evangelical Biblical scholar.

Goodrick said he bought everything Bruce wrote. I began to do the same and was never disappointed. My Biblical studies and library now had some traction…

This is part of a series which continues with Jon reflecting on the of influence Gordon Fee.

Will 9/11 Anniversary Impact Christian Publishing?

September 11, 2001 I was a few minutes late to open the store. The car radio was tuned to 680 News Toronto so I could hear the tone and measure my exact lateness, and as they came up the hour — my definite signal that I was truly late — they didn’t do their audio logo to kick off the next half-hour cycle. That signified to me that they were following an important breaking story.

I pulled into our parking lot and fortunately nobody was waiting, so I sat in the car an extra minute to try to discern what was being described. A plane flew into the World Trade Centre. I couldn’t wrap my mind around that at all. I heard the words, but it didn’t seem real.

Instead of starting up the CD-player in the store, I switched to the radio. One station, and then another. After about 25 minutes, I phoned my wife who was at home. “Turn on the television;” I told her.

She asked what station.

“It won’t matter;” I responded. “You’ll see it.”

Hard to believe it’s been 20 years. With the pandemic uppermost in our minds, I didn’t consider that we were reaching that anniversary. A number of books were published in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy with the cover images you would expect. Other books dealing with God’s place in the midst of suffering saw a resurgence. Where indeed was God when it hurts? It was a fair question.

But on Monday I noticed a reference to it in the timing of the newest release —non-fiction this time — from Joel Rosenberg. It’s no coincidence that Enemies and Allies releases just days earlier, on September 7th. The subtitle will prove too long to include in most advertising, but for the record it’s An Unforgettable Journey Inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East.

Tyndale House advance publicity reads:

Do recent changes in the Middle East signal peace? One Arab country after another is signing historic, game-changing peace, trade, investment, and tourism deals with Israel. At the same time, Russia, Iran, and Turkey are forming a highly dangerous alliance that could threaten the Western powers. Meanwhile, the U.S. is drawing down its military forces in the Mideast and focusing on matters closer to home. Where’s it all heading?

New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg, based in Jerusalem, skillfully and clearly explains the sometimes-encouraging, sometimes-violent, yet rapidly shifting landscape in Israel and the Arab/Muslim world. Enemies and Allies will take readers behind closed doors in the Middle East and introduce them to the very kings and crown princes, presidents and prime ministers who are leading the change.

Yes, Canadian store owners and managers, there is an ITP for this title, available through WordAlive using ISBN 9781496463081.

It was a quote from Rosenberg himself that connected the dots between 9/11/01 and 9/11/21 and you can read that fuller interview at Monday’s edition of Rush to Press.

“What happens in the Middle East – for better or worse – affects the entire world,” said Rosenberg. “The Middle East and North Africa are the epicenter of the momentous events that are shaking our world and shaping our future. Two decades after the horrific terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, which shifted our focus to the Middle East yet again, the region is undergoing sweeping, historic, tectonic transformations. We ignore them at our peril…”

”…What is needed is context. That is why I wrote this book. I will take you inside Royal Courts and capitals and introduce you to the most powerful figures in the region. Love them or hate them, these are the players driving the change. These are the leaders to keep an eye on.

There was also a helpful summary of Rosenberg’s work:

Having started his career as a political aide in Washington, D.C., today Rosenberg, an evangelical Christian with a Jewish heritage, lives in Jerusalem. He is a New York Times bestselling author of 15 novels and five nonfiction books and serves as Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the news platforms, All Israel News and All Arab News. He also hosts the podcast, “Inside The Epicenter With Joel C. Rosenberg.”

Guelph, Ontario Author on The Father’s Love and How We See Ourselves

September 1, 2020 1 comment

My first contact with Jonathan Puddle came when he was  overseeing the Catch The Fire bookstore (now Attwell Books) in Toronto. More recently, I checked out his podcast, The Puddcast, after Hamilton author and pastor Kevin Makins described it as his favourite interviewee experience to date. Other guests have included Brian Zahnd, Kim Walker-Smith, Priscilla Shirer and Wm. Paul Young.

Jonathan was born in New Zealand, lived in Finland for five years, and then moved to Toronto. Today he calls Guelph, Ontario home. He writes about marriage relationships and parenting, does business consulting and support for pastors.

However, the major theme in his new book release is knowing and experiencing God’s love and then, knowing that we are loved by the Father, being able to love ourselves. You Are Enough: Learning to Love Yourself the Way God Loves You is being self-published but is available to retailers through Ingram/Spring Arbor at standard trade terms or in bulk from the author.

Here’s the marketing info about the book:

If I asked you to name your favourite things—the things you love—how long would it take for you to name yourself?

Drawing from Scripture, trauma-informed therapy, Christian inner-healing, breathing and embodiment exercises, and silent prayer & contemplative spirituality, You Are Enough is a 30-day holistic healing journey towards abundant life. Daily readings are easy to understand, with practical exercises to help you embrace the truth of your beloved-ness in every part of your mind, body, soul and spirit.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried to love God and love others without thinking too much about yourself. Wanting to avoid self-centeredness, I doubted myself and condemned myself—I even hated myself—until I noticed the ancient words of Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” A gentle whisper led me in a new direction and everything in my life began to change.

In You Are Enough, Jonathan Puddle teaches how to:

  • Love your body and embrace the space you take up.
  • Discern God’s presence and feel safe with your creator.
  • Get to know your emotions and inner life.
  • Encounter love in the most scarred, scared, and sacred places of your heart.
  • Love your whole self the way God does, with gentleness and compassion.

The 222-page book can be consumed in one sitting but is intended to be read following a 30-day format with each bite-size chapter being only six to eight pages in length.

Every Market is Different: Here’s What’s Selling in Mine

Anything here surprising you? What would be tops in your store over the past 3-4 months?

When Mainstream Book Dealers Become the Default Christian Store

Editorial

Every time a bookstore closes it hurts, even if it’s three provinces away from where you live.

In many cities, a mainstream bookstore might find themselves picking up a few extra orders for titles from Christian publishers. The ones I’ve talked to are aware of this phenomenon, but say the impact isn’t significant. In other cases, the customers are forced to educate themselves how to order online from CBD or other online vendors.

But in a great many cases, the sales never happen. The books never find their way into a consumer’s hands.

I’m committed to Christian books reaching people in families, neighbourhoods, workplaces and schools. I don’t have a personal succession plan for what’s going to happen to my own store — we currently have 4,000 fiction titles alone, and over 1,000 Bible products — but I do have a succession plan for continuing to promote the reading of Christian authors and reference materials. I still hope to keep writing reviews, and personally promoting the efforts of remaining booksellers.

I would greatly miss that connection if it all ended tomorrow.

And so, here in Canada, we find ourselves in a situation where stores like Chapters/Indigo have taken up the slack, offering in many cases a fairly decent selection of Christian non-fiction, fiction, and Bibles. (In some U.S. cities, if there isn’t a Barnes and Nobles, there’s the option of discount chain Ollies, which carries Christian remainders from B&H, Harper and other publishers.)

It wasn’t always this way. For well over two decades, it appeared that Barnes and Noble in the U.S. knew the secret that Chapters didn’t. I even offered my services to Chapters once, but never heard back. But eventually suppliers — especially Hachette and HarperCollins — were able to convince the stores to stock the Evangelical authors they had always been lacking. Hopefully, they see return on these products. Today at Indigo you’ll find a mix of good titles; not just the cases where authors have found their way to FaithWords or Howard or Waterbrook (being distributed to mainstream stores through Hachette, Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House respectively) but also titles from David C. Cook, Baker Group, or Tyndale House, which don’t have an affiliation with a major publishing house.

So it pained me to hear that Indigo is continuing to face the challenges we all deal with on a daily basis.

An opinion piece by Jennifer Wells in the Business section of The Saturday Star this week noted second quarter revenue dropped by just under $13 million. Online sales were down 12.2%. She writes, “…Not that long ago, the CEO was counting on a $20 and up share price and further U.S. expansion…On Thursday, Indigo shares closed at $4.26…”

On the upside, the article notes that “…bookseller James Duant, who really does sell books and has his own nine-store chain of bookstores in the UK…has run Waterstone’s since 2011, returned the UK chain to profitability in 2016 and is now trying to work the same turnaround at Barnes and Noble.”

Writer Wells concludes that 4th quarter profitability at Indigo, necessary to offset money-losing quarters, is key. Christmas is a make it or break it time. But she adds, “Heather Reisman hasn’t yet fixed the recipe for Indigo; that ‘curation’ she refers to in staging books amid a studied lifestyle.”

In many cities and towns that have already lost their Christian bookstore, losing that “Religion: Christianity” section at Indigo would be the end of a physical presence for Christian authors and publishers in those locations.

Read the full article at The Star.

Tim Challies on Amazon’s Control Over Christian Publishers

An article released Friday by Canada’s Tim Challies on the influence that Amazon now has on the Christian publishing market has been making the rounds, and I wanted to wait a few days before responding. You can find The Power Over Christian Publishing We’ve Given To Amazon by clicking this link.

He begins dramatically,

A few days from now, or maybe a few months, or even a year, Amazon will pull a book from its site. One day it will be there available for purchase with all the rest, and the next it will be gone. One day people will be able to order it and have it shipped to their homes, and the next day it will have ceased to exist, at least as far as Amazon is concerned. This will inevitably be a book that Christians have embraced as orthodox but that the culture has rejected as heretical…

We’ve seen some of this already, so it isn’t prophetic. He then sets the stage defining the challenge for the future:

…[W]e inadvertently handed Amazon a near-monopoly over the sale of Christian books. We did this with the good-faith assumption that they would continue to sell whatever we published. But times have changed and are changing and it seems increasingly unlikely that Amazon will continue to sell it all. It seems increasingly likely that they will cede to cultural pressure—pressure that exists both within and outside of the company—and begin to cull their offerings. And then what? It’s not like these books cannot be sold by the Christian retailers that remain. But will publishers even be willing or able to publish them if they cannot be sold at the world’s biggest marketplace? Will you and I even be able to find out about them if Amazon isn’t recommending them to us? And will we be willing to pay a premium to have them shipped to us from smaller retailers with higher prices and no ability to offer free shipping?…

In a way, this is nothing new. Spin the search engine wheel and you’ll find many articles from the past accusing Christian publishers of only selling things that will do well at Family Christian Stores or LifeWay. But now FCS is gone, and LifeWay is phasing out its physical presence in America’s cities and towns.

Why publish something which retail won’t carry? That’s been a challenge, but now that in many parts of North America there is no retail (in the traditional sense) indie-published books compete with those from the larger, established publishing houses. The online behemoth is in many respects now calling the shots. Brick and mortar retail stores don’t matter as they once did; we’ve lost our influence.

What is new is the people to whom that power has been ceded. While dealing with a different aspect of this, Tim Challies correctly notes that, “Amazon is hardly a company founded by Christians or run according to Christian principles. To the contrary, it is a company founded by worldly people and run according to worldly principles.”

And beyond the social issues Tim mentions, it bothers me that Amazon has no filters. A Jehovah’s Witness title, New Age title or an LDS title is just as likely to turn up in the search results as something from Baker, Zondervan or David C. Cook. Already, I’ve heard stories of people who unwittingly bought inappropriate books based on search engine results. This in and of itself highlights the value of Christian bookstore buyers and proprietors.

So what if those Christian publishers said to Amazon, “Since you now advertise as ‘the world’s largest bookstore,’ it would be nice if you would carry our titles exhaustively instead of selectively” or even dared to suggest that, “If you won’t carry everything, we won’t sell you anything at all.” If A-zon called their bluff on that, it would be devastating both to authors and consumers, since if a book’s A-zon listing doesn’t appear in search results, the book, for all intents and purposes, ceases to exist.

Again, to read the article at challies.com, click this link.

 

What My Customers Are Buying

This list reflects what’s going on in Cobourg, Ontario. Nothing more. It may not resemble your store anymore than this ECPA list for May resembles my store. But I thought I’d share it with you.

The one thing we’ve noticed is that unlike the list we did about six months ago, this one reflects a much higher percentage of backlist titles. Christian publishing generally has a stronger backlist than its secular counterpart, and frankly I’m thankful because without that, we would have nothing to sell.

The personal shocker for me was the absence of anything by Karen Kingsbury on this list. Our customers in our market — and I can only speak for myself — won’t pay the price for first edition hardcovers, even though we adopted an “Our Price” sticker program on hardcovers for the past six months. By the time Karen’s books convert to trade paper it seems that lately she’s lost all momentum for that particular title.

We’re grateful for Baker Books and HarperCollins Christian Publishing giving us International Trade Paperback Editions (ITPEs). Frankly, woe to Waterbrook (Penguin Random House), FaithWords (Hachette), and Howard Publishing (Simon & Schuster) if they don’t wake up and smell the coffee and realize what they’re losing in this market. Remember though, it’s literary agents who often insist that Canada be considered part of the U.S. market for royalty purposes, so aim all your attack on the publishers; there are cases where they were helpless, but there are just as many cases where they could advise the lawyers they’re killing their sales up here.

We also saw a general decline in fiction sales. Children’s Bible story books are a strong category as are Children’s picture books. Devotionals are strong, but spread out over too many titles to make our list (other than #11) Other book categories aren’t seeing anywhere near the action we see with things like boxed cards, DVDs, and the whole gifts-under-$10 category.

If your store does a local market chart, please consider sharing it with our readers.

How They See Us: Literary Hub Looks at Christian Publishing

The Quiet Revolution in Evangelical
Christian Publishing

The article begins:

How does one begin to describe the world of evangelical Christian publishing? It’s an industry whose target consumers make up a percentage of annual book sales ($600 million) that’s smaller than annual worldwide sales of Garfield merchandise, but still occupies a powerful place in its target demo’s consciousness. It’s replete with its own set of niche presses, academic imprints, literary agents and Big Five-funded publishing houses that exist apart from the New York City’s publishing scene. It’s an insular economy whose power players are nestled into the suburbs of cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Nashville, Tennessee; where book proposals are evaluated not only by their sales potential, but by their broadest theological implications. Here we have a sect of the publishing world where women have held much of the buying power, but proportionally, precious little social capital in their own homes and in their churches.

Author Kathryn Watson spends the rest of the article continuing this theme, looking at the women authors in the field.

Continue reading the whole article at Literary Hub.

Christian Publishing News Updates

■ Ever wondered how Warner Press got its name? Christianity Today invites you to meet Warner Sallman: The guy whose picture of Jesus was once found in more churches and hospitals than any other image. “What changed in the 20th century with Sallman, was that Jesus images met American advertising and mass production. Prayer met plastic… Despite his beard, the “Head of Christ” is anything but hipster irony…Apparently, Sallman was attempting to create a more masculine Jesus than earlier portrayals. Ironically, many now find his Jesus effeminate — demonstrating the extent to which definitions of “masculine” are cultural and fluid rather than biological. In Jesus’ own day, and as a Jew in the Roman Empire, masculinity was as contested then as it is now.” 

■ Knowing what we sell: Apologia Studios posted this 50-minute video podcast “explosive and compelling story of Lindsay Davis who defected from Bethel” and addresses some concerns that I think booksellers should be aware of, even as we sell Bill Johnson’s books and Bethel Worship’s music.

♫ Gloria Gaynor, who had a hit song I Will Survive, has signed with Gaither Music Group for an album releasing early summer. Make sure your staff know what customers are asking for. Not to be confused with Gloria Gaither. This one is Gaynor.  

■ Wanda Brunstetter has officially passed the 11-million mark in book sales. Rush-To-Press reports on the Barbour Publishing author: “Brunstetter is undeniably one of the most prolific authors in both the Christian and mainstream markets with a published book list that exceeds 100 titles. A number of her works have frequented the nation’s most prestigious bestseller lists including the NY Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, ECPA, and more. Most recently, The Hope Jar, book 1 in her Prayer Jars series, has remained on the ECPA fiction bestsellers list 8 months straight since its August 2018 release.” Two more titles will release simultaneously in June.

■ Literary agent Steve Laube sits down with Publisher’s Weekly to discuss the changing landscape of Christian book marketing. “Publishers continue to brace themselves for the loss of even more Christian retail outlets this year, but the strongest impact of store closings could be leveled at authors in the category. The shrinking footprint of Christian retailers is already leading to a new normal where writers are also expected to have a marketing team behind them…”

■ Are you selling as many funeral bulletins as before? Just when a bunch of boomers are getting ready to die, the funeral industry is being shaken. “…Somber, embalmed-body funerals, with their $9,000 industry average price tag, are, for many families, a relic. Instead, end-of-life ceremonies are being personalized: golf-course cocktail send-offs, backyard potluck memorials, more Sinatra and Clapton, less “Ave Maria,” more Hawaiian shirts, fewer dark suits. Families want to put the “fun” in funerals…The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger…” The Washington Post reports on “thinking outside the box. (With fewer weddings and funerals, what will provide extra cash for pastors a decade from now?)

Tribute: In one of his best articles yet, Carey Nieuwhof asks who will replace Eugene Peterson and others like him when that generation passes from the scene. Seven important things that people of Peterson’s ilk have in common.

■ New Music from 🇬🇧 – Iron Lung by Martin Smith (of Delirious) But why that title? “Smith called on early memories of struggling for breath and how he needed oxygen to keep him alive. The vital importance of breath came into focus for him as a young child when he was diagnosed with a severe case of bronchial pneumonia. He was placed into an oxygen tent, similar to an early 19th-century iron lung device, which kept him alive while his parents fervently prayed for God to save his life. This harrowing experience set a course for Smith, giving him an acute perspective of the fragility of life and how God’s presence, His very breath, can restore what’s been broken.” Read more at NewReleaseToday.

■ Clean presentation: If you want to see what a webpage should look like which is promoting a series of books, you can’t do better than this one at Christian Book Discounters in South Africa.

■ Another one going off the rails? Highly respected for his work in founding anti-pornography ministry XXXChurch.com, author and pastor Craig Gross has launched Christian Canabis and recommends weed as an aid to worship. No it’s not a month-late April Fool’s story; it appeared Monday in The Christian Post. The quote: “I’ve never lifted my hands in a worship service ever, ‘cause I was raised Baptist. … I’ve done that in my bathroom worshiping with marijuana by myself.”

■ Who the cool kids are reading: You won’t get an actual schedule of speakers for the 2019 Wild Goose Festival until a few weeks before the event, but there are clues here and here and here. (Why promote when you can tease?)

Veggie Tales is back in the hands of the original creative team. “Brand-new episodes of VeggieTales are on the way, courtesy of a partnership between Trinity Broadcasting Network and Big Idea Content Group. Each episode will remain true to the classic VeggieTales brand to deliver clever storytelling, Biblically-based lessons, and memorable songs.” 

First there were Christian T-shirts and now… leggings? Would you sell these in your store? That’s Psalm 23 in case you missed it. We found this one at Zazzle.com.


■ I hope you find this update useful. Here’s a few graphics we created in a hurry to meet specific needs on our Facebook page this week. Feel free to steal them or adapt them. If you really, really need something and can’t create these yourselves, feel free to email me and ask for a favour!