Giving Gifts

December Staff Picks Part II — Here are some more books we love to give.

Cindy is giving The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small because “my granddaughter planted her first garden this year and was thrilled to see things sprout and grow. I think this children’s book will be a great gift for her.” (We hope none of Cindy’s family happens on gift spoilers on the blog!)


Ed likes giving Return of the Prodigal by Henri Nouwen because he feels like this is a book he can give to anyone.


Heather suggests giving Home by Marilynne Robinson because she likes giving prize-winning fiction to unsuspecting relations.


Carolyn suggests John Jensen Feels Different by Henrik Hovland because “I gave this lovely Norwegian children’s book to myself recently, and I may give it to my goddaughter when she is a little older. If you don’t fall in love with John Jensen in 30 seconds, it’s not my fault, nor is it the fault of Hovland or his brilliant illustrator, Norwegian-Canadian Toril Love.”


Sheila suggests The Experience of God by David Bentley Hart because it is a good book. We all know that Sheila always suggests good books.


Connor, following the colouring book trend, suggests giving All the Libraries Toronto by Daniel Rotsztain because “It’s fun, and another way to connect with Toronto’s growing library system.”


Andrew suggests giving The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky because “Everyone should read at least one classic novel at Christmas time.”brothers

Books Crux Staff are Reading for Advent

Advent is almost upon us — Sunday, November 29, is Advent 1. Happy Church New Year everyone!

If you are still looking for an Advent read, have a look at the books staff are reading this Advent. Sometimes the reasons we pick the books aren’t super spiritual, but maybe the books themselves will help us with that.

For Advent, Cindy is reading Light Upon Light compiled by Sarah Arthur


Why did you pick this book Cindy? “Because more than one person recommended it to me.”

For Advent, Ed is reading Against An Infinite Horizon by Ronald Rolheiser


Why this book, Ed? “Because the church librarian told me I needed to read it.”

For Advent,Heather is reading After You Believe by N.T. Wright


So, Heather, why’d you pick this book? “Because it has been sitting on my coffee table for a while.”

During Advent, Carolyn is planning to read Preparing for Christmas by Richard Rohr.


Carolyn, why did you choose this book? “Because I got it free.”

For Advent, Sheila is reading Every Valley: Advent with the Scriptures of Handel’s Messiah compiled by Jessica Miller Kelley


Why did you pick this book Sheila? “Because I love listening to Messiah.”

For Advent, Connor decided to read The Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.


Connor, why this book now? “Because It’s red like a Starbucks Holiday Cup and is as directly related to advent as a Starbucks Holiday Cup; further, it is of interest to me because it invites self reflection.” (Way to jam all that into one sentence Connor.)

For Advent, Andrew boldly chose On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius.


Why this particular book for Advent, Andrew? “Because that’s what its all about.” (Do the Hokey-Pokey much?)

One Woman’s Plain Choices

A review of The Plain Choice: A True Story of Choosing to Live an Amish Life by Sherry Gore (Zondervan, 2015).

by Cindy Hayley


The book is the true story of a woman who chose to live an Amish life. Her story is that of a troubled young woman, whose lack of self-esteem, sense of worthlessness, and belief that she was unloved took her on a deep, dark journey of bad decisions and their resulting consequences—a journey that too many young people take. The book is brutally honest in parts and heartbreaking in others. As you read you can feel the emotional roller coaster ride of her life.

One day Sherry discovers Jesus and feels Him calling her toward a different life. Slowly,  her faith is built, a faith that can sustain her through changing circumstances. Becoming a Christian not only doesn’t solve all one’s problems, in some respects, it creates new difficulties. Sherry chooses to live her Christian life in an Amish Mennonite community, a decision that will change her inside and out. This path will lead her and her children in a direction that is different than the the direction most people’s lives take. Sherry’s choice isn’t for everyone, but everyone can read and learn from her story.

Books We are Thankful For

October brings with it Thanksgiving, so our staff picks for October are books we are thankful for, or that remind us to be thankful.

To start with, we are all thankful that the fences are down, and the PanAm disruption to the business at the store is over. Then we are thankful for these books.

Cindy’s pick: 7 Women And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxis

seven women

Cindy says: “I am thankful for the women who have come before me, those who stood firm in their Christian faith in the face of adversity, those who gave voice to the injustices they saw, those who taught the next generation to have faith in God, and those who cared for the bodies, minds, and souls of those that society would rather forget.  The stories of these seven women will inspire and encourage both women and men.”

Carolyn’s Pick: Daily Prayer for All Seasons


Carolyn Says: “Prayer is hard for me. Written prayers can sometimes help with this. Occasionally I’ll grab the prayerbook sitting on my bedside table and make my way (usually skipping some parts, I’ll confess) through morning or evening prayer or compline. But to be honest, I’m just not disciplined enough to consistently pray through the services on my own (which is probably why they are designed for communal use).

However, I very recently discovered a prayer book put out by the US Episcopal church that seems ideally suited to my poor attention span. Daily Prayer for All Seasons takes the pray-er through the Hours (eight per day, if you wish to pray them all), with a unique set of prayers for each season of the church year. Each prayer service is thoughtful and beautifully written, yet blessedly short (1 or 2 pages). Additionally, the book itself is slim enough to make it easy to carry around throughout your day. If, like me, you have a faltering prayer life and could use some help in making your intercessions, thanksgivings, and confessions, and in receiving assurance of God’s love and grace throughout the day, I highly recommend this book!”

Dr. Heather’s Pick: Space for God: The Study and Practice of Spirituality and Prayer by Don Postema


Dr. Heather says: “This book was a text in an introductory course on Christian spirituality. While I knew about the ideas of giving thanks and gratitude before I took the course and read the book,  Space for God helped me recognize the importance of gratitude as a daily practice. When I see the book it reminds me that thanksgiving is important all the time not just at some seasons of the year.”

Sheila’s Pick: A blank journal


Sheila says: “Earlier this month, I began a journal of thankfulness.  My prayer partner and I were giving thanks for the many blessings which we have received and to which have have been witnesses over the past twenty years.  We decided to keep a journal to record so that we may remember the many, many reasons God has given us to give thanks.  So my pick for the month is a blank journal and a quotation from Father Alexander Schmemann: ‘All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God…God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation.’ (From For the Life of the World p. 14.)”

Connor’s Pick: Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis


Connor says: “I chose this as my pick for October, on the theme of things for which I am thankful, because I am taking a course on climate ethics, and Laudato Si breaks from the narrow, consequentialist bent of the readings for that course. Pope Francis articulates how our actions not only change the environment, but also our attitude toward others and towards other things around us. To be thankful for what we have and where we are requires us to think not only in terms of cause and effect.”

Andrew’s Pick: A Secular Age by Charles Taylor


Andrew says: “Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age is without a doubt one of the most profound books written by a Canadian ever. I am particularly thankful for A Secular Age because of the impact it had on my own life. What does it mean to live in a secular age? Has God in fact died? (hint: Taylor is a practicing Catholic). Open up this massive book and simply read a chapter that grabs your attention. You will not be disappointed!”

April Picks: Spiritual Heroes

This month’s staff pick theme is Spiritual Heroes. Staff picked a book either by or about their spiritual heroes. This is what happened when we thought about our heroes:

Cindy’s Pick(s):

The Spirit of the Disciplines and Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard


Cindy says: “The writings of Dallas Willard have greatly impacted my view of the spiritual life and opened my eyes to seeing that every moment of each day is a spiritual moment. How I live each moment–how I respond to people, how I respond to God’s calling–indelibly marks my life as a Christian. To live each of those moments for God requires the inclusion of the various spiritual disciplines into my daily routine–moments that allow me to draw closer to my Creator and Redeemer. I had the opportunity a few years ago to meet Dallas Willard when he was speaking at Wycliffe College. He did a book signing at Crux Books and we had the opportunity to have a quiet conversation. In that conversation I truly felt I was in the presence of a “man after God’s own heart.” He lived what he wrote about. I would recommend starting with his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, followed by Renovation of the Heart. Both books need to be read slowly and reflectively, taking time to journal thoughts, insights, and responses to questions raised by your reading.”

Sheila’s Pick:

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom


Sheila says: “To narrow down the choice to one book for this month’s theme, a spiritual hero, was more of a struggle than usual. This past weekend, I picked up Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place to remember again the courage  of Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their father, Casper who ran a watchmaker and repair shop in the Netherlands. All their lives, the Boom family had made a home for foster children and gave generously of what they had. Then the Nazis invaded Holland. And the family had to decide how to respond in the face a growing atrocity.

In The Hiding Place, we encounter a family of great courage, love, and wisdom.  When the Nazi occupying forces demanded that Jews wear the Star of David, Casper ten Boom wore one voluntarily.  For as long as they were able, they sheltered Jewish people and helped them to escape.  The family was itself sent to concentration camps.  After the war, Corrie, the only survivor, started a rehabilitation centre, became a public speaker, and wrote prolifically.
Why read this story? Because stories of great courage can inspire us, I hope, to ask God for valour in this present hour.  Or, as Corrie puts it: ‘This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.'”
Rev. Heather’s Pick:
The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
Rev. Heather says: “I first encountered Dorothy Day in my grade 11 religion class at Archbishop Oscar Romero High School in Edmonton AB. Since then she has been a hero and companion of mine. She was an incredible woman whose love of literature opened her eyes to the beauty of the divine and lead her to despise the ugliness so much of humanity is consigned to. Her writings about the struggle to live a life that reflects one’s deeply held convictions are powerful must reads, especially for anyone exploring a vocation. I’d start with The Long Loneliness but I guarantee you’ll be moving on to Loaves and Fishes. And her letters. And On Pilgrimage. And then you will probably scour used bookstores for a copy of her out-of-print novel The Eleventh Virgin!


March Staff Picks Part 2: Even More Challenging Books

The March theme for our staff picks is “Books We Find Challenging.”

Sheila’s challenge: Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas


Sheila says:

“I find Bonhoeffer’s choice challenging. As I am reading through this biography, I’m finding the issues Bonhoeffer faced similar to issues we face today. How do I live as a Christian in the world? How should Christians be involved in politics? The book has also challenged me to think about what I remember about the history of the first half of the twentieth century. I’m not always sure Metaxas’s presentation of the zeitgeist and timeline is accurate, but I need to do more reading to see if my impression is correct.”

Connor’s challenge: Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals by Immanuel Kant


Connor might have said:

“I’m a philosopher, but Kant is challenging no matter who you are.”

On seeing Connor’s Staff Pick, Everyone’s Favourite Campus Chaplain said: “That Connor is a weird guy.” On hearing that this month’s theme was challenging books, EFCC changed his comment to: “Oh, OK, yeah, Kant is challenging.”

The Academics’ Challenge: Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics

Dr. Heather: Volume I.1, The Word of God


Dr. Heather says:

“This is the only volume of Church Dogmatics I’ve dipped into so far. It was pretty challenging.”

Ryan: Volume IV.1, The Doctrine of Reconciliation


Ryan says:

“Karl Barth is easily the most important Protestant theologian of the 20th century. Perhaps more than anything else, Barth is challenging because of his rigorous Christocentrism. He wants all theological doctrines to be refracted through the lens of Christ, God’s personal disclosure of Godself to humanity. Readers will find this feature fully on display in this volume of the Church Dogmatics. Let Barth challenge you to see if you really think about humanity in light of Christ.”

Why do we try? Because it is is THE major work of 20th Century Theology. Plus most of our theological friends tend to be Barth scholars.

March Staff Picks

Here we are in March, a month of time adjustments, the start of spring, and almost the end of term for students at the seminaries we serve. March can be a difficult month — Lent plus Term Papers equals Stress. In recognition of those stressful aspects of March, our monthly staff pick theme is “Books We Find Challenging to Read.”

You can see from what staff members say about their picks for the month that we define “challenging to read” differently. Have you read any of our challenging books? Will you challenge yourself to read them?

Cindy’s Pick: To The Heart of the Mystery of Redemption by Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr


Cindy says:

“Our staff pick “theme” this month was books that we find difficult but well worth the struggle to read, hence my selection of this book.  I find that von Balthasar’s writings stretch my brain to the point of snapping, but after a long period of thought and reflection my brain begins to slowly absorb his theological insights.  This book is particularly suited to the current liturgical season of Lent. Although it is a small book (only 135 pages) it is a long read.  Like eating an elephant, it is best to digest this book one small bite at a time.”

Ed’s Pick: Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman


Ed says:

“This book is dense with great information. It is challenging to read because you have to unpack every sentence. I found it a real tough slog, but worth it.”

Carolyn’s Pick: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien


Carolyn says:

“This month’s staff pick assignment is to pick a book that we find challenging in some way. On author I find challenging to read is J.R.R. Tolkien. I know, everybody loves this guy. And everyone should read him, right? Well, I picked up Lord of the Rings about 5 years ago, and I think I got Frodo and his pals as far as Rivendell, where they are waiting still. Sorry, Tolkienheads, I just can’t get into it. Too much geographical detail, I think. And Tom Bombadil is just too weird.

My mom read The Hobbit to me when I was a child, and there were parts of it I enjoyed, most notably Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum. But picking it up and re-reading it would certainly be a challenge for me.”

Rev. Heather’s Pick: For Self-Examination & Judge for Yourself! by Soren Kierkegaard


Rev. Heather Says:

“I picked a hard-looking book by Kierkegaard because Carolyn picked a Tolkien book. Tolkien is one of my favourite authors and Lord of the Rings is one of the best books EVER. Carolyn loves Kierkegaard (she keeps picking his stuff for books you love months). She thinks Tolkien is challenging; I think Kierkegaard is obscure. But we are still friends.”