Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Author: Chris (page 2 of 18)

20 Favorite Albums of 2015 (Halfway-Point edition)

Listed in an order somewhat representing how I would rank the albums if I took more time, and listed with one representative song from each album. Continue reading

It Makes No Sense!

I have a confession to make. I typically come up with a blog post idea on my bike ride to work the morning of. I was proud of myself for thinking ahead yesterday and considered coming in this morning to blog about my favorite albums of the year so far. But all I could think about on my bike ride this morning was the terrible tragedy in Charleston, SC. It makes no sense to me to blog about music on a day like today. It makes no sense to me why a twenty-one-year-old boy, who just received a gun from his father for his birthday, would sit with a dozen other people in a bible study for an hour and then open fire on the small group, killing all but three. It makes no sense how such hate could take hold of a person. No doubt this was a slow-building hatred nurtured by others, the individual himself, and a context well-suited to cultivate it. It makes no sense that a five-year-old girl would have to play dead to stay alive. She should be playing other games! It makes no sense that the face of the killer will dominate newsreels and become the face of this event in history, while the faces of Clementa Pinckney and his eight as-yet-unnamed parishioners will eventually fade from public memory. It makes no sense! Music will have to wait. Prayers are more important this morning.

The USA shoots. The USA scores!

It has been quite a month for US Soccer.

Yesterday, the USMNT defeated Germany 2-1 for their first ever win against Germany on German soil. Earlier that day in New Zealand, at the U-20 World Cup, the US U-20 Men’s Team defeated Colombia 1-0, with a fabulous penalty kick save sealing the victory. This U-20 team has already tied the US record for number of wins at the U-20 World Cup. They stand a chance to have the best U-20 showing ever for a US team. Next up Serbia in the quarterfinals on Sunday. A couple of days before these exciting wins by the Men’s Teams, the USWNT kicked off their World Cup campaign with a 3-1 victory over Australia. It was a decisive victory, even if the Aussies didn’t think so. The Women face their former coach on Friday when the USWNT play Sweden. The mind games have already started. Just a day before the USWNT started things off with a win, the U-23 Men’s Team ended their campaign at the prestigious Toulon Tournament with a 2-1 win against England. The victory secured third place for the US, it’s best showing ever at the historic tournament. And just two days prior to the U-23 victory, the USMNT scored a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Netherlands in Amsterdam, its first ever win against this traditional European powerhouse. So, really an exciting week for US Soccer!

But, I began the post by saying it was a good month. I should really have said it was a good week for US Soccer and a good month for worldwide soccer, although the US had a large part in the events. On June 2, FIFA’s long-running president, Sepp Blatter resigned amid a flurry of indictments  and accusations of bribery and other misconduct among FIFA executives. The IRS, FBI, and US Dept. of Justice are integrally involved in the indictments and ongoing investigations. The rampant corruption is mind-boggling. Here’s something to help you follow along. I’ll not try to spell it all out here. The bottom line is there is hope for change to an organization whose operations have been described as running like the mafia.  John Oliver was especially ecstatic about the news of Blatter’s resignation.

All in all, these past few weeks have improved the world’s perspective on American soccer both on and off the pitch. US Soccer has probably not been held in such high esteem since the days of faux-denim kits and fire-red goatees.

God Bless America!

God Bless America!

Covering Academic Books

Check almost any line of academic publications and you are not likely to see creative book covers. Monographs, published dissertations, and the like are not known for eye-catching displays. For our academic imprint, Pickwick Publications, our cover designers do an excellent job of giving life to the types of books known for lifeless appearances. Here are a few of my recent favorites.

By the way, did you know that you can download any of our covers from our website. Go to a book’s web page and click ‘Download Cover’ beneath the picture of the cover.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at [Jun 4] 9.33

Finally, on the topic of covers. I’m really digging Dwight Yoakam’s cover of “Man of Constant Sorrow” from his new album Second Hand Heart.

For God so loved the world…

A couple of days ago, Robin took a stab at encapsulating the gospel in one sentence. A few commenters did the same. I’m not going to try to add to the list. I would, however, like to call attention to a book about a very familiar sentence, which, for many, summarizes the gospel quite well.

We are just a few weeks away from publishing a short book on John 3:16 by well-known New Testament scholar, Murray J. Harris. Harris might add to the conversation Robin started with the following:

Of course, John 3:16 is not the totality of the gospel (“the good news”) nor a summary of the entire New Testament. How could one sentence of twenty-five words (in Greek) possibly sum up the message of nine different authors writing over some forty years? But this sentence is a summary of the message of the Fourth Gospel and it does sum up the essence of the “good news” which is the invitation given to all to believe in Jesus, God’s Son, and the promise that those who do this will avoid God’s condemnation and will share in the very life of God forever.

John 3:16: What’s It All About? should be available by early summer. It would make for an excellent small group study. And could easily be read in one day at the beach!


What to say about Baltimore?

I can think of nothing and everything to say about this week’s events in Baltimore. I’m overwhelmed. There has been a flood of words on the subject in the last several days, so anything that I might say would only add to the deluge and no doubt come up far short of the better pieces. I mainly want to understand, and I am certain that the place to begin is not on the streets of Baltimore. We must begin many steps prior, maybe even a few hundred years back. But we can at least explore the framing of the narrative in our lifetime. Here’s a good place to start:

Broke Cities and Broken Bodies—It’s Time to Make the Connections – “Unless we frame the narrative as one that begins with Wall Street stealing money from our cities and ends with the ruinous destruction and brutality we see around us, we risk becoming little more than sensationalizers of greedy bastards on one side, and pornographers of despair on the other.”

In addition to understanding the systemic issues, I can better respect others’ feelings. This letter encourages as much:

Dear white Facebook friends: I need you to respect what Black America is feeling right now – “I don’t need you to validate anyone’s actions, but I need you to validate what black America is feeling. If you cannot understand how experiences like mine or my students’ would lead to hopelessness, pain, anger, and internalized oppression, you are still not listening. So listen. Listen with your heart.”

And by all means, I can avoid, criticize, and/or lambast popular media’s coverage of Baltimore, its irresponsibility in framing the narrative, and its inability to understand and listen. The way the media has covered or failed to cover this important issue in our society has put the final nail in the coffin for me with regard to its respectability. Leave it to Jon Stewart to make the point. And this encounter between a young Baltimoreon and Geraldo Rivera is pure gold, encapsulating the pain and anger of one community and the smugness and lust for sensationalism of another.


Van Gogh’s Ghost Paintings

In the same year that he painted Sunflowers, The Yellow House, and The Bedroom, Vincent van Gogh painted “A Garden of Olives—with a blue and orange Christ figure, a yellow angel—a piece of red earth, green and blue hills. Olive trees with purple and crimson trunks, with grey green and blue foliage. Sky lemon yellow.” But as Vincent wrote to his brother, Theo, “I scraped it off because I tell myself it’s wrong to do figures of that importance without a model” (Letter 637). Seventy-five days later, in another letter to Theo, Vincent wrote,

For the second time I’ve scraped off a study of a Christ with the angel in the Garden of Olives. Because here I see real olive trees. But I can’t, or rather, I don’t wish, to paint it without models. But I have it in my mind with color—the starry night, the figure of Christ blue, the strongest blues, and the angel broken lemon yellow. And all the purples from blood red purple to ash in the landscape. (Letter 685)

And two weeks later:

I mercilessly destroyed an important canvas—a Christ with the angel in Gethsemane—as well as another one depicting the poet with a starry sky—because the form hadn’t been studied from the model beforehand, necessary in such cases—despite the fact that the color was right. (Letter 698)

In Van Gogh’s Ghost Paintings: Art and Spirit in Gethsemane, Cliff Edwards, Professor of Religion in the School of World Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of three previous books on van Gogh, asks,

Exactly what is it about painting Jesus and the angel in Gethsemane that led to this double creation and double destruction during the height of the artist’s creativity? Why had he never composed a scene from the life of Christ before, and why would he never compose such a scene again?

The answer to the mystery of the lost paintings illuminates the relationship of joy and suffering, discovery and creation, religion and the arts in Van Gogh’s life and work. In this fascinating book Edwards solves a long-ignored mystery that provides a critical key to the relation of Van Gogh’s religion and art. Look for the book in late Spring or early Summer.

The Return of Some Favorites

I tend to associate certain musical groups and artists with particular periods of my life. New Edition, for instance, makes me nostalgic for middle school. Many of those artists persist in my life beyond that specific period, but their music reminds me of the time when I first began to listen to them. Recently a handful of artists have released albums or individual songs that recall a time in my life not too long ago. I’m not sure how I would label this time. It’s the period encompassing dating and the first few years of marriage, prior to our move to Eugene and my starting work at Wipf and Stock Publishers. It’s that weird period many people experience wherein school wraps up (in my case the final year or so of dissertating) and a job solidifies. Some of my favorites from that period have put out new stuff. I like the new music, but I think I like the memories they evoke even more. Here’s a list of the meaningful albums from that 6 year period and the new stuff out this year. [NB: Links are to artists, albums, and/or songs on Spotify. Also, Sufjan Stevens and Iron & Wine were busy guys during those years!]

Jose GonzalezVeneer (2006), In Our Nature (2007), and Vestiges & Claws (2015)

Death Cab for CutieTransatlanticism (2003), Plans (2005), and Kintsugi (2015)

Sufjan StevensMichigan (2003), Seven Swans (2004), Come on Feel the Illinoise (2005), Songs For Christmas (2006), The Avalanche (2006), and Carrie & Lowell (2015)

Iron & WineThe Creek Drank The Cradle (2002), The Sea & the Rhythm (2003), Our Endless Numbered Days (2004), Woman King (2005), The Shepherd’s Dog (2007), and Archive Series Volume No. 1 (2015)

The WeepiesHappiness (2004), Say I Am You (2006), and the soon-to-be-released Sirens (out April 28, 2015), containing “Sirens,” “No Trouble,” and “Crooked Smile.”

Josh RouseNashville (2005), Subtitulo (2006), Country Mouse, City House (2007), and The Embers of Time (2015)

UPDATE 4/22/2015: Great Lake SwimmersGreat Lake Swimmers (2003), Bodies and Minds (2005), Ongiara (2007), and A Forest of Arms (2015)

In putting this list together, I notice they all have a similar aesthetic. Hmm. Wonder what it was about that time of my life and this style of music?

Throwback Thursday with a New Look

Last week I called attention to a couple of new Cascade Companions and the new look of that series. We’ve started to retrofit some of our older volumes, and I figured today would be a good day to call attention to three of my favorite companions and their new look. If you haven’t read these yet, now is a good time to get them with their nice, new design.


Teaching John and Rebooting Companions

Just today I finished up my work on an exciting new Cascade CompanionReading John by Christopher W. Skinner. What struck me most about Skinner’s book was his evident care for students, not just the ones in the classes he teaches, but all students of the Gospel of John. Skinner writes in order for his readers to learn. He has no axe to grind. He doesn’t write to build himself up. He doesn’t talk above his audience. He writes like a good teacher. And for that reason, Reading John is an excellent guide to the Gospel of John. It is short, accessible, learned, well-organized, and, if I do say so myself, quite attractive.


Like a good teacher, Skinner does not simply tell his readers how to think or give them all the answers to the questions still surrounding the Fourth Gospel. Instead he gives them the tools to become “more perceptive readers.” Here’s a glimpse of the Table of Contents:

  1. Reading John: Where to Start?
  2. John’s Prologue: The Interpretive Key for Reading the Gospel of John
  3. A Tale of Two Stories: John’s Two-Level Drama
  4. John, Jesus, and Judaism: Is the Gospel of John Jewish and Anti-Jewish at the Same Time? (Or, Is the Gospel of John Schizophrenic?)
  5. An Alien Tongue: The Foreign Language of the Johannine Jesus
  6. John’s Characters and the Rhetoric of Misunderstanding
  7. Putting the Pieces Together: Reading John 3:1–21
  8. Postscript: Reading John Theologically?

Alan Culpepper says this about Reading John:

“Studying or teaching John? Reading John takes anyone interested in learning to read the Gospel of John and leads them step by step on a delightful journey into its strange and wonderful landscape, with the result that each chapter builds reading competence. Skinner is impressive as a teacher and guide, equally at home in the ancient world, the Gospel of John, and twenty-first-century culture, and he has a keen ear for the nuances of each. This guide is ideal for Bible study groups and college classes.”

And Paul Anderson writes:

“In this fresh introduction to John, Christopher Skinner treats readers of John to some of the most valuable of recent approaches to the Fourth Gospel clearly and succinctly. Embracing the narrative through the lens of the Prologue, appreciating the sketching of characters, understanding misunderstandings, and seeing John as a two-level drama afford new insights that would otherwise be lost. Here we see John’s theological, historical, and literary riddles addressed in helpful and compelling ways; Skinner’s readers will not be disappointed!”

Another reason I am excited about this book is that it is one of the first in our new-look Cascade Companions series. The companions have always been some of our most popular titles, but in the past couple of years, as other areas of our publishing company have grown, Cascade Companions have been less frequent. Now, with the good work of our acquisitions editors, most especially Christian Amondson, we have enlivened the series with a new look and a full slate of forthcoming titles. Reading John joins Hannah Hunt’s A Guide to St. Symeon the New Theologian as the first two in the Cascade Companions reboot.


Keep an eye out for volumes by Rustin E. Brian on Jacob Arminius, Anthony Bash on Forgiveness, Jack R. Lundbom on Jeremiah, Everett Ferguson on The Rule of Faith, and more!


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