Yes, yes, I know I'm late in suggesting some new books you might want to give as holiday gifts, but the truth is I already suggested some some weeks ago here. Besides, do you buy books I list just as gifts for others? Don't you sometimes splurge and read a book or two yourself?
And if you really want these by Christmas, you might find a way to get that done.
In other words, stop griping at me. It's the time to be jolly and all that.
Here are a few new faith-related books that have crossed my desk recently. I'm not going to give you a full review of any of them but will direct you to a site where you can read more about them and decide whether you want to acquire a copy.
* Napkin Notes: Creating a Daily Connection with Those You Love, by Garth Callaghan. This is a touching book by a father with cancer who writes encouraging notes that he sticks into the lunch bags his daughter takes to school -- and eventually about the notes she leaves him. He began writing these notes long before he was diagnosed with kidney cancer but they took on a deeper meaning as he realized he had no idea how much longer he had to live. You may have heard news stories earlier this year about this father-daughter note tale.
* Chastity is for Lovers: Single, Happy and (Still) a Virgin, by Arleen Spenceley. The author, who now has degrees in both journalism and rehabilition and mental health counseling, writes here about Catholic Church teaching on chastity from the perspect of a single Catholic who remains a virgin by choice. She writes with honesty and frankness.
* Nothing but Love in God's Water: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, by Robert Darden. It's difficult to understand any movement or people or tradition fully without grasping the formative role music has played in each situation. This book seeks to explore how important music of various kinds was to African-Americans who were confronting slavery, discrimination, bigotry and hatred. The author rightly concludes that music can be dangerous because it can change both the musician and the listener. This is a worthy addition to literature about blacks in American history.
* Loved as I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing, and Freedom through Jesus, by Sr. Miriam James Heidland. Now a Catholic woman religious, or nun, the author writes of her journey from the life of a party girl in college to a feeling of profound emptiness to redemption. At the end of each chapter there are questions to help readers perhaps make a similar journey.
* The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times, by Deepak Chopra. The author has written dozens and dozens of books, so his many fans may be interested in the ways in this one that he opposes militant atheists while not joining forces with sometimes equally militant fundamentalists. And as Chopra notes, "You get to the transcendent world by first arriving at a dead end."
* The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living, by Lisa M. Hendey. The author, founder and editor of CatholicMom.com, describes what she calls the eight graces that are essential to the Christian life: Belief, generativity, creativity, integrity, humility, vulnerability, no and rebirth.
* Love Will Steer Me True: A Mother and Daugher's Conversations on Life, Love, and God, by Jane and Ellen Knuth. Jane is the mother, Ellen the daughter who has grown up and moved to Japan after being reared a Catholic. Jane is worried how her daughter will stay connected to faith in a land without many Catholics. Ellen is open to new experiences. This is the story of how their worries and explorations are working out. I wrote about Jane's previous book, Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25 Cents at a Time, a few years ago here.
* Your Divine Fingerprint: The Force That Makes You Unstoppable, by Keith Craft. The author is a pastor and he's writing about finding what is unique about you and using that special quality to make a difference in life.
* The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage, by Rob and Kristen Bell. The term Zimzum, the authors say, refers to an ancient Hebrew concept that suggests God creates space for the world by doing a bit of contracting of God's own self. The Bells -- he's a pastor and author of several popular books, she trained as an occuptional therapist and co-founded Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids -- take that concept and apply it to marriage and how each partner makes room for the other. Think of this as a marriage enrichment handbook that's marinated in Christian theology.
And finally a work of fiction (about which I rarely write), inspired by a true story, and written by a man from the Kansas City area:
* The Ravine: A Novel of Evil, Hope, and the Afterlife, by Robert Pascuzzi. One of the author's close friends murdered his wife and son and then died by his own hand by driving his vehicle into a ravine. Shattered by what happened, Pascuzzi felt that God was calling him to write about this in some way -- a way that turned out to be a novel. In the end, this is a story of hope and redemption, but getting there required a sometimes-painful spiritual journey. If, after reading the book, you're interested in having Pascuzzi do a speaking engagement, you may contact Jon Edlin at 913-231-7333.
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IS POPE FRANCIS YOUR BFF?
What has made Pope Francis so popular? This Daily Beast article has some good ideas about all of that. And it gives me a chance to remind you that my next book, co-authored with my pastor, Dr. Paul T. Rock, will be out next summer from Westminster John Knox Press, Jesus, Pope Francis and a Protestant Walk Into a Bar: A Seven-Week Study. It will help Catholics, Protestants and others understand the Francis phenomenon and what all of us can learn from it about better ecumenical and interfaith relations.