“Only a writer as sensitive to the power of words could give us a book like this that touches the heart. Priest of the word, Charles Davidson bids us to ‘Lift up your hearts.’ Read the book. It will lift you.” —Ross Mackenzie, Historian Emeritus, Department of Religion, Chautauqua Institution, New York
“This wondrous collection bears witness to those who do not want to miss out on the gifts that are stunningly given among us. These stories, in the skilled artistry of Davidson, keep giving us gifts in illuminating, transformative, and summoning ways.” —Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
“As they turn these pages, readers of every generation will find themselves invited home.” —Marilyn McEntyre, Author of Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies and When Poets Pray
From the Cover
Here is a vivid, poetic, and evocative story of the painter Vincent van Gogh’s struggle to become his true self. The author listens in on Vincent’s most intimate, frequently startling thoughts on a host of topics, drawn from three volumes of his correspondence and his 900 extant paintings.
What emerges is the portrait of an artist whose spiritual vision was born of an agonizingly prolonged experience of the “dark night of the soul” through which his art dared to intimate the triumph of joy over sorrow, of resurrection over suffering and death. Readers will discover that in many ways Vincent’s story is as much about us as about him.
Tracing van Gogh’s pilgrimage from being an apprentice art dealer to being called to minister, in self-renunciation and misery, among destitute coal miners, the narrative follows his winding, tortuous path into adulthood as he struggles with family, associates, lovers—and with himself.
Constantly evidenced in Vincent’s own eloquent words and paintings is his tussle with the mysterious presence and maddening absence of God. Vocation unveils as a process of summoning and birthing his own self, through an attempt to imitate Christ, calling forth van Gogh’s extraordinarily creative powers from deep within.
Adding choice supplies from other observers, Davidson here weaves his own exact, artful tapestry of interpretation, producing a suspenseful excursion into the life of van Gogh that offers profound meaning at every turn.
What Readers Have Said
“This richly detailed and deeply felt account of van Gogh’s tormented and self-tormenting life, together with many telling quotations from his correspondence with his faithful brother Theo, will be essential reading for all who see him as one of the geniuses of the 19th century.” —Frederick Buechner, author of The Sacred Journey, Now and Then, The Magnificent Defeat, Longing for Home, A Room Called Remember, Godric, Secrets in the Dark, The Yellow Leaves
“A rich account of the influence of religion on Vincent van Gogh’s life and art . . . that need not be limited to a religious audience.” —Kirkus Reviews (read entire review)
“How do we explain the disjointedness between the darkness of a life and the glory of the same man’s art? Davidson argues that the struggles of the van Gogh who felt without God were matched by the strokes of an artist who saw God made visible in a human face, a meal shared, cypress trees and yes, sunflowers. Davidson leaves us with this haunting question: ‘To what extent, if at all, is the divine presence revealed in the bleakest moments of suffering and despair?’ This book becomes personal as we consider where we are with God when we too are lost, ill and abandoned.” —Debra Bendis in The Christian Century (read entire review)
“This book is an extraordinary blend of theology, philosophy, psychiatry and art that held my attention, challenged my mind and fed my soul for four weeks. . . [and] will enrich me spiritually and intellectually for some time to come. Deo gratias.” —Lamar Williamson, Jr., author of Mark (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching) and Preaching the Gospel of John (read entire review)
“I could not put down this probing, challenging, humane and beautiful book until I had completed reading it. Then, as I gently closed it, I said a whispered but audible, ‘Yes! And thanks!'” —Carl Walters, author of I, Mark: A Personal Encounter: Explorations in the Earliest Gospel (read entire review)
Do we still need preachers?
“Does the preacher now impress us as a ‘legate of the skies’? To many he is a pathetic figure, an anachronism, a stage-joke—an inoffensive little person jostled by the crowd, and wearing the expression of a startled rabbit. With one hand he holds a circular hat on a bewildered head and with the other desperately clutches an umbrella. The crowd pushes him from the sidewalk; the traffic shoots him back into the crowd. Some curse him; a few laugh; most are unaware of his existence.” (George Buttrick, Lyman Beecher Lectures, 1931).
Whether we need preaching has been asked for hundreds of years, long before an age of media saturation from streaming 24-hour news, entertainment, politics, and sports. This question hounded George Buttrick, one of the most profound preachers of the twentieth century and often compared with Billy Graham. Buttrick offers a compelling answer to the question, but his answer remained hidden for 40 years until now.
In George Buttrick’s Guide to Preaching the Gospel, we learn why the world needs competent preachers, what the preacher must preach about, and how the preacher goes about creating the sermon with daily discipline and several practiced skills, including research, charting, outlining, writing, and performance. These writings have never been published before and were found by his grandchildren after his death. A brief biography of Buttrick introduces this master orator and professor to readers who do not know his work.
George A. Buttrick
George Arthur Buttrick (March 23, 1892 – January 23, 1980) became one of the most influential preachers in the United States and England. He was the famed pastor of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, and professor of preaching at Harvard, Garrett, Vanderbilt, and Louisville’s Presbyterian and Southern Baptist seminaries. As the general editor of the bestselling Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (over 275,000 sets sold) and the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (over 75,000 sets sold), Buttrick became a household name between 1950 and 1990 among one million preachers from nearly all denominations. Buttrick was the author of 13 books about parables, prayer, evil, and other topics. He was also active on social and political issues, including anti-war campaigns and civil rights.
“It is high time that a new generation of preachers and other readers should be introduced to the generative work of George Buttrick, the greatest preacher amid a generation of great preachers. The lectures put on full exhibit Buttrick’s great passion for the gospel, his immense authority rooted in the gospel, and his astonishing erudition. What strikes one the most, however, is that Buttrick is a careful and knowing craftsman. He knows what a sermon ought to do, and he knows how it can be accomplished. This book will be a great instruction and stimulus for its preacher-readers. Buttrick stands in solidarity with other preachers; those other preachers will be empowered and encouraged by his wise words.” – Walter Brueggemann, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA
. . .
“With the advent of twenty-first-century tools for sermon preparation, one may wonder what a pulpit giant of the last century has to offer. It turns out that George Buttrick has some of the finest insights on sermon mechanics I’ve ever known. His phrases glow. His pastoral heart shines. His indisputably wise insights on the craft of preaching are a gift to readers who inhabit both pulpit and pew.” – Peter W. Marty, editor/publisher, The Christian Century
. . .
“Some of the greatest preachers of the past are in danger of being forgotten ― which is why I’m so grateful whenever a publisher invests in reminding us of homiletical geniuses of former times. George Buttrick certainly deserves that accolade, and today’s preachers will certainly grow in wisdom and stature if they read, ponder, and inwardly digest Buttrick’s legacy.” – Mark Galli, former editor in chief, Christianity Today
. . .
“Especially in this time when, in his own words, “our earth is filled with death and we (some) propose that God is dead,” these wisdom teachings from George Buttrick offer guidance and hope for every preacher who seeks to offer a timely word to the waiting congregation. Every preacher needs this text. That word for Buttrick is ever and always the gospel. He charges the preacher to preach the gospel, good news that “proclaims the life of Christ.” Through these lectures Buttrick offers a guide on the who, what, when, where, why and how of preaching in a way that makes his wisdom available to every fledgling and every seasoned preacher. His teachings are biblical, deeply theological, and overwhelmingly practical such that they not only invite the reader to absorb his words but encourage movement into a life and witness that proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.”– Gennifer N. Brooks, Ernest and Bernice Styberg Professor of Preaching, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL
All royalties from the book go the the Council for World Mission
From the Cover
From Pain to Purpose is a suspenseful memoir depicting the costly commitment of a young woman to keep her faith to the end. Emboldened by an abiding love for Christ learned in the trenches of the underground church, Lumi’s Christian discipleship was a costly undertaking. As the daughter of a communist party leader, she encountered bitter opposition to her faith from family, educators, and the government. At nineteen, Lumi finds herself at the harrowing epicenter of events that led to her arrest, imprisonment, and death sentence during the December 1989 anticommunist revolution. Woven into the story are romantic interests, challenges presented by peers, and a struggle with a call to ministry that made no sense for a woman.
Upon the overthrow of communism, Lumi pilgrimages to an uncertain future in the United States, where she faces a different kind of prison, crueler than the communists could ever invent. From Pain to Purpose is a story of triumph birthed from a stubborn refusal to give up and the faithfulness of a God who cannot lie.
Luminitza C. Nichols received her master of divinity from Palmer Theological Seminary and is an ordained American Baptist pastor. Lumi is currently a doctor of ministry student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is married to Eric, and together they have two daughters – Ana and Teodora. Lumi writes extensively and is passionate about teaching and preaching the word of God.
The signs of decline are everywhere in the American church. Instead of finding blame in other places, the author asks, “What if God is dismantling the church?” For Kanagy, the decline of the church is ironically the work of God, taking apart the institutionalized church as we know it. Why so? In order to once again reveal the core of Christian faith: Jesus. About four years ago Kanagy learned that he had Parkinson’s disease. This difficult but liberating experience brought a personal dismantling that transformed his life. The Parkinson’s dismantling gave Kanagy the courage, the guts, and the grit to strip off his masks and speak the truth. It empowered him to say and write things that most of us might think but would never say. Setting aside his inhibitions, freed him to reveal his innermost thoughts and struggles. These essays mingle the voice of a prophet, the eye of a sociologist, the heart of a pastor, the wisdom of an educator, and above all the candid confessions of a child of God. Whatever your identities—religious, skeptic, political, racial, gender, class—you will find his essays provocative. His unvarnished honesty and his picturesque language are refreshing. Kanagy invites us to see things in new ways that jolt our spiritual complacency. You may not agree with him on every point, but you will admire his courage to say it as he sees it. He may stir your ire or light your fire, annoy you or compel you to compassion. Prophetic voices do that. But you will keep on reading. His poignant stories, evocative phrases, and frank confessions will entice you to read on and on to the very last line. This is the first in a series of four books that emerged from a podcast that the author developed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Conrad L. Kanagy is professor of sociology at Elizabethtown College (PA) and a Mennonite USA pastor
This book is an alternative to what passes for Christianity in movies, television, videos, novels, political campaigns, and, sadly, in many churches. It is for Christians, people of other faiths, and people of no faiths. It is for those who have given up on religion and those with secret doubts about concepts and biblical narratives most Christians seem to believe easily.
Douglas Heidt contends that traditional Christian theology deals primarily with intellectual conclusions and emotion, leaving seekers with the idea that if they believe certain propositions, and love God, they will lead safe, happy lives, and go to heaven when they die. But this book argues that Jesus didn’t teach a theological or ecclesiastical system. By his words and life he simply revealed a way to live, the way God created life to be lived, the life of sacrificial, eternal, universal love, kindness, forgiveness, justice, and compassion. Life’s goal is not to believe certain things and go to heaven. Life’s goal is to love your neighbor. This uncomplicated assertion has crucial implications for the church, how we understand the Bible, the Christian story, and the Christian life and its conclusion. It presents ideas that may be challenging, and describes how being Christian is not what you think, it’s what you do.
(Wipf and Stock)
Douglas Heidt is a retired Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister living in Charleston, WV, after serving as pastor since 1969 in churches in North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, and West Virginia. He and his wife have two grown children, five grandchildren for whom this book is written, one dog, one cat, and one bass boat.
How do you forgive a person who has hurt your deeply? Why forgive someone who does not deserve to be forgiven? Forgiveness is not easy, and often we discover that the persons who need to be forgiven the most are ourselves. As we forgive others and ourselves, we find that we are the ones who have benefited — forgiveness brings peace to our lives that no one can take away from us.
Learning to Forgive: A Memoir of Doubt and Faith is the author’s personal journey of forgiveness from a spiritual and psychological point of view. The book shows the readers how they can use their relationship with God, the resources of the Christian faith, and their psychological understanding of themselves, to learn how to forgive. As readers see that pastors are not immune to the challenges of everyday life, nor spared from abusive backgrounds, they will be encouraged to embark on their own journeys of forgiveness, or receive strength and hope for a journey already started.
Walter R. Smith, is a retired Presbyterian (PCUSA) pastor living in Virginia. He has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, Chrysalis, the Journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, Church Teachers–Journal of the Association of Church Teachers and National Teacher Education Project, and the Bulletin of Psychological Type. He is a member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and the Association for Psychological Type. A significant part of his career was spent in the educational ministry of the church where he wrote and published church school curriculum, and taught teachers how to teach. He and his wife, Maureen, have been married for thirty-nine years and they have two sons and a daughter-in-law: Damon, Bryan, and Tori, and a cat, Tigger.