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(RNS) The holiday season and the New Year — often full of stress, drama and emotional baggage — is a fine time to consider spiritual issues.
The 15 titles listed here touch on topics ranging from church architecture to the church fathers, from a Catholic priest’s insights to Taoist sacred texts.
Doubters, atheists, Bible study experts and movie fans will find something here, as will frazzled folks and those seeking respite from the cares of life. Dig deep into these books and you will come away challenged and changed.
“It’s Really All About God,” by Samir Selmanovic (Jossey-Bass, 300 pages, $24.95). “None of us can possibly be in charge of God,”
Selmanovic says in his introduction. He goes on to describe a “fourth way” of appreciating and acknowledging each religion’s need for the other. He creates a new paradigm that finds truth for Christian, Muslim, Jew and atheist, not to convert the other but to live next to and love the other.
“A Visual Guide to Bible Events,” by James C. Martin, John A. Beck, David G. Hansen (Baker Books, 272 pages, $39.99). This fascinating study of the connections between biblical events and locations will add depth to Bible study. Easy-to-read text, numerous photographs and maps bring alive places such as the ancient land of Canaan, Joseph’s journey to Egypt, Jacob’s well near Shechem and Ezra’s rebuilding of the Temple.
“Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching,” translated by Ursula K. Le Guin (Shambhala,
144 pages, $18). The origin of the Tao Te Ching is shrouded in mystery but its message remains strong after 2,500 years, thanks in part to this translation by bestselling author Le Guin, long a student of the Taoist scripture. She offers her rendition of what she calls its “terse, strange beauty,” with her commentary added.
“Church Fathers,” by Pope Benedict XVI (Eerdmans, 179 pages, $15).
Pope Benedict XVI devoted his Wednesday audiences in 2007 and 2008 to short talks about the fathers of the church. Thirty-six of those edited and annotated lessons are included here. The pope offers inspiration, information and a strengthened faith through his easy-to-read talks on church fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Augustine of Hippo.
Venerated theologians to little-known saints, each one is a unique story of faith and dedication.
“The Power of Pause,” by Terry Hershey (Loyola Press, 233 pages, $16.95). Hershey, a professional landscape designer, gardener and “pause” expert, leads readers on a journey of de-stressing, slowing down and self-discovery. His 52 short, simple chapters based on the seasons are filled with stories and advice on how to catch your breath and enjoy the present. Hershey offers us a much-needed respite from the busyness and chaos of life, allowing us to move into a life of joy, silence and quietness.
“Our Daily Bread, Volume 2” (Discovery House, 384 pages, $12.95).
Our Daily Bread, created by Grand Rapids, Mich.-based RBC Ministries, reaches millions of readers each month and is translated into nearly 50 languages. Now a year’s worth of devotionals is available in book form, each centered on the theme “great is thy faithfulness.”
“The Lion Companion to Church Architecture,” by David Stancliffe (Lion, dist. in U.S. by Kregel, 288 pages, $39.95). Churches have always been key elements in worship, from early house churches to modern soaring spaces such as the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. Now Stancliffe links church buildings to church builders’ relationships with God in this unique look at the evolution of the church building and its many facets. Full-color art complements the well-written text, which brings readers into the minds of believers from past to present and offers them a new understanding of their own church building.
“The Essential Henri Nouwen,” edited by Robert A. Jonas (Shambhala,
191 pages, $14.95). For readers just meeting the late Catholic priest Henri Nouwen or those who know him well, Jonas has created a tidy anthology of highlights of Nouwen’s work. Selections cover Nouwen’s major themes (God, woundedness, healing, love, social action, etc.) and are drawn from his many books. Jonas offers an informative introduction to Nouwen’s life and work, as well as puts each selection into context.
“The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers,” by Cathleen Falsani (Zondervan, 238 pages, $14.99). Falsani, religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Religion News Service, finds God in a variety of places, this time the films of Ethan and Joel Coen.
Falsani dissects 14 films, provides commentary, then offers her conclusions and “The 14 Coenmandments.”
“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years,” by Donald Miller (Thomas Nelson, 255 pages, $19.99). Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” revealed his search for faith, and now this new memoir continues the story. Miller struggled after success, but he’s given a second chance when movie producers arrive to put his life on screen. Miller’s wry, humorous, honest musings that turn his life into a new reality will take readers with him into a deeper celebration of life.
“The Case for God,” by Karen Armstrong (Knopf, 330 pages, $27.95).
Armstrong, author of “A History of God” and other titles, plumbs history from ancient time to present to create a picture of humankind’s need for and search for God. She explores age-old religious traditions that inspired awe and recognized our own limits, in an effort to reintroduce religion to the present, which is mired in the need to “know” and its dogma and fundamentalism. Her tone is more academic, but Armstrong’s information and conclusions merit close study.
“My Generation: A Real Journey of Change and Hope,” by Josh James Riebock (Baker Books, 222 pages, $14.99). Riebock knows the soul of Generation Y — those born between the late 1970s and early 1990s — because he’s a member. But he’s also a speaker, writer and follower of Jesus. Riebock defines his generation through his own story, and offers healing and hope to those whom many Christians have ignored and don’t understand.
“Faith at the Edge: A Book for Doubters,” by Robert N. Wennberg (Eerdmans, 160 pages, $14). Wennberg directs his book to doubters — not seekers or skeptics — those inside the faith who experience doubts about God, his existence and his work in the world. The author helps doubters understand what is happening to them and why, using his own journey and the wisdom of spiritual fathers such as G.K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis and Martin Marty.
“Making a Pilgrimage,” by Sally Welch (Lion, distributed in the U.S.
by Kregel, 126 pages, $7.95). Welch, an Anglican rector in Oxfordshire, England, is a firm believer and participant in pilgrimage. She offers this guide to pilgrimage, but it’s not just a list of things to carry and places to go. Topics such as solitude, burdens, healing and obstacles are accompanied by her pilgrimage stories and reflections.
“Running Into Water: Women Immersed in the Pursuit of God,” by Angela Blycker (Authentic, 215 pages, $12.99). Blycker, mother of three, writes to women who long for immersion in God, who long for a deeper, more committed relationship with the creator. This book for women and mothers transcends the usual how-to manuals to challenge women to run wholeheartedly into God.
(Ann Byle writes for The Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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