I Will Not Be Shaken:
A Songwriter’s Journey
Through the Psalms
By Jamie Howison
and Steve Bell
2015. 133 page book
+ CD, $29.99
THE BOOK of Psalms is a continual
draw for many Christians. The
honest portrayal of the pilgrim life
and God’s presence in the midst of
our deepest pain and longings can
be encouraging and comforting,
particularly in the majestic language of King James.
Psalms have long inspired the
work of Winnipeg singer/songwriter
Steve Bell, and now he and his
Anglican priest friend Jamie Howison have put together a delightful
exploration of this element of
This set includes a CD compiling
15 previously released recordings of
Bell’s songs plus one new one. It also
includes a book of 16 chapters, each
containing a commentary by Howison followed by an anecdote by Bell
explaining the background context
from which his song was born.
Psalms are not meant to be
taught and explained so much as to
be entered into. They are the language of the heart, not of theology
or piety. That is what is behind their
universal appeal. Bell and Howison
explore that language, drawing out
what has spoken to them from the
ancient words. Bell is more successful at that than Howison,
whose writing tends to be educational. Still, he shares a moving
story in his introduction to Psalm
23 that will touch anyone who has
been pursuing the pilgrim way for
any length of time.
For those who love Steve Bell’s
music and the Psalms, I Will Not Be
Shaken is ideal for personal devotions or a group study.
Bet ween the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Random House Audio, 2015.
170 pages. $26
TA-NEHISI COATES is a black
American writer – not an
activist, but someone who
thinks deeply about the questions that keep
him up at night. In a recent Atlantic column he
wrote, “I don’t so much hope that any reader
‘agrees’ with me, as I hope to haunt them, to
trouble their sense of how things actually are.”
In this award-winning book, he sets himself to
the troubling subject of being black in America.
Between the World and Me takes the form
of a letter from Coates to his adolescent son.
In some hands this epistolary device leads to
sentimental cliché, but not here. Instead his
fatherly voice enlivens the book’s rigorous
reporting with fierce tenderness and specificity.
Coates is a professed atheist, and he has a
somewhat pessimistic view of human nature
and the possibility of change. Some reviewers
have drawn parallels between Christianity and
Coates’ social gospel of antiracism, but that
connection isn’t required to see truth in his
observations and conclusions.
Canadians may be tempted to distance
themselves from the legacy of racial injustice
that America is grappling with. But our country
also has a history of white supremacy, colonies
built on appropriated land, Christian European
culture imposed while other traditions were
violently eradicated. Canadians who “believe
that they are white,” as Coates puts it, have
their own reparations to consider.
The best way to experience Between the
World and Me is to listen to the audiobook,
narrated by the author himself. A work like this
is most powerful when inhabited, a black man
speaking about his body with his own voice.
But whether you read or listen, this book is too
important to ignore. –ALISON GRESIK
“Inspiration is like
the presence of
God. It can
manifest in the
texture of a
branches in the
woods, it can be
an image that
appears in my
hearing the words
of a poet or
Reading THE BES TSELLERS
Journey Through Dementia (acrylic and multimedia on canvas) by Faye Hall
( www.fayehall.com), used as cover of her book Art Begets Art (FriesenPress, 2015).