The Christmas List

     Rather than list titles which you should know for your job, serious theology, ministry strategies, leadership development and the like, in December we like to offer a more playful list: fun things to give (or ask for). Tell your significant others to call us to order gifts for you. (We gift wrap and mail anywhere!) With a ho ho ho and a mistletoe kiss, here's the brief 1998 holiday gift guide.

Say Please, Say Thank You: The Respect We Owe One Another by Donald McCullough (Putnam), $21.95. Presbyterian seminary president hits the big time with an "Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten" type reflection. Delightfully written, but don't be fooled; there is profound substance here about character and civility.

Letters To The Thirsty by Ed Miller (WaterBrook), $14.95. Intensely spiritual letters from a deep lover of God. Brings to mind the classic My Utmost...

By Chance? by John MacMurray (Multnomah), $19.99. A splendidly produced coffee table book with finely printed color photographs of nature's splendor. Brief text, quotes and captions, mostly-speak intelligently about how creation's glory points to a Creator.

When True Simplicity Is Gained by Micah & Martin Marty (Eerdmans), $16.00. Stunning black and white photos of Shaker homes, walls and furniture with thoughtful prose about their simple beauty.

Invitation to the Classics: A Guide To Books You've Always Wanted to Read edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness (Baker), $34.99. What an utterly lavish and well-done book! This is a wonderful collection of intro-ductions to Western masterworks. Keep this on your coffee table for browsing; give it as a statement about the importance of mature and serious Christian thinking.

Celtic Parables: Stories, Poems & Prayers by Robert van de Weyer (Northstone), $14.95. What a little treasure this is, a pocket sized hardback, printed nicely on recycled paper, this collects and topically arranges a bunch of great stories and legends and verse.

Things in Heaven & Earth: Exploring the Supernatural edited by Harold Fickett (Paraclete), $20. A very substantial collection of essays by fascinating authors such as Madeleine L'Engle, novelist Doris Betts, Larry Woiwode and Luci Shaw.

Standing on the Promises: Keeping Hope Alive by Lewis Smedes (HarperCollins), $16.99. Smedes is still one of my all-time favorite writers. Poetic and passionate, he is a great storyteller and solid, Reformed theologian.

Sabbatical Journey by Henri Nouwen (Crossroad), $19.95. This was the diary kept during the last year of his life, about friendship and prayer. See also the wonderful paperback anthology edited by Robert Jonas simply called Henri Nouwen (Orbis) $14. The intro bio on Nouwen is a gem! Or, consider one of two hardback gift editions, each which combine three full books of Nouwen's, Ministry & Spirituality ($29) or Spiritual Journals ($29).

When God is Silent by Barbara Brown Taylor (Cowley), $9.95. Enjoy pondering these three marvelously-written lectures on preaching. Ever gentle and thoughtful, this premier preacher makes a case for restraint. Try a collection of her sermons (Gospel Medicine or the newly reissued Gift of Blessing) to see just what she means.

The Pilgrim's Guide: C.S. Lewis and the Art of Witness edited by David Mills (Eerd-mans), $20. There is a batch of new books about Lewis, he was born 100 years ago-and this is one of the more interesting. Substantial essays by a wide variety of scholars show his relevance. The editor is at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry near Pittsburgh. Call us for other Lewis suggestions, from the tape of Screwtape performed by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) to a handsome gift edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The Call by Os Guinness (Word), $17.99. IÕve been mentioning this remarkable book on vocation for months now, and it may be my pick for best book of 1998! The audio cassettes (live Os!) are fantastic. Give as a wonderful gift or ask for it if you haven't yet picked it up. It is one you should own.

At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent van Gogh by Kathleen Powers Erickson (Eerdmans), $22. With renewed interest in this remarkable man, we are fortunate to have an insightful study of his life and faith journey. A major contribution to van Gogh studies.

Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster (HarperCollins), $20. How could I not mention this new book by one of my favorite writers? Nicely pulls together several strands of church traditions into a balanced and wholistic spirituality. A must!

SoundTracks: A Musical ABC Vol 1-3 by Michael Jarrett (Temple), $24.95. Mike is a good friend, a jazz critic and a postmodern lit-crit film studies guy. Nobody quotes Miles Davis and Jesus and Elvis and funk-meister George Clinton quite like Jarrett in this collection of brief essays, photos of album covers, music and book lists and definitions. Called "the Oscar Wilde of popular music criticism," this is wild, weird stuff.

Is It a Lost Cause: Having the Heart of God for the Church's Children by Marva Dawn (Eerdmans), $16. This very well may be the most significant study of children and parenting I've seen. With solid cultural critique and steamroller passion she calls us to take children (and our world) seriously.

Family, the Forming Center by Marj Thompson (Upper Room), $11.95. Just how can families become "sacred shelters"? A very important look at the role of family in spiritual formation.

The Christmas Cross by Max Lucado (Word), $17.99. Billed as a story about "finding your way home for the holidays," this may be the most lavish book of the year! Utterly beautiful, with little enveloped notes tipped in, this is a book to give and to cherish.

Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas by Jan Richardson (United Church Press), $18.95. A richly illustrated, modern-looking devotional of poetry and reflections. Highly recommended.

For Kids

I'll Be With You Always by Joni Eareckson Tada (Crossway), $14.99. Certainly one of the nicest kid's books of the year, this warmly illustrated book tells the story of a boy who grows up to be a painter and remembers his father's unfailing love.

The Bedtime Rhyme by Walter Wangerin (Augsburg), $15.99. It is not every Christian children's author who gets raves from Maurice Sendak and Stellaluna's Janell Cannon. Wangerin's lovely book is a passport to peaceful slumber and sweet dreams.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (Candle-wick Press), $17.99. Winner of the world's most prestigious children's book award, this gorgeous story tells of an old man's grief and restoration as he creates a Christmas creche. This new edition comes with a CD of the story being read.

Someone With You by Larry Libby (Gold'n Honey), $14.99. A remarkable book with the assuring message that God is always a Friend, even through hard times. A very important tale told without sentiment or condescension. Even talks about God with us through the seemingly frightening entrance of the New Earth.

The Sleeping Rose by Angela Elwell Hunt (TommyNelson), $14.99. For those who like medieval fables, this is a brief story about kindness and assisting those in need. Written by the same author of the well-loved Tale of Three Trees, itself a marvelous folk tale which wonderfully connects Christmas and Easter and doing all for the glory of God.

Music

Happy Christmas, various (BEC Records). Rowdy holiday tunes, with both heavy alternative and edgy pop stuff. Imagine Supertones doing "Joy to the World" or Seven Day Jesus, "O Holy Night." 18 tracks, from Joy Electric to Plankeye, make this a diverse, loud gift for the eccentric listener.

The Gift: A WeatherVane Christmas Sampler, various (WeatherVane Music). A very acoustic, understated release (except for the two passionate pieces by VOL), this was compiled by the same folks who did the stunning indie neo-folk WeatherVane collection. Jason Harrod's solo rendering of "O Come O Come Emanuel" (with Neil Young-like harmonica) is perhaps the best-ever version of that song.

Christmastime by Michael W. Smith (Reunion). Yep, I'm recommending the Christian pop-meister himself, whose brand new Christmas release is very nice.

The Court of the King by The Crossing (Grrr). A Celtic Christmas celebration from the very authentic inner-city folk from JPUSA. We've got plenty of Irish stuff (just call and we'll tell ya all about it!) and we are quite fond of these guys.

Christmas by Rebecca St. James (Forefront). Came out last year and I liked it a lot. Sort of a Sheryl Crow with dancey arrangements.

A Winter Solstice Reunion, Various Artists (Windham Hill). Yet another release of high fidelity recordings of mostly instrumental readings of carols and seasonal songs. While these fine albums continue to be well-loved, the first two or three are still best, utterly stunning in their simplicity. WH has another new Celtic Christmas release and a new jazz Christmas disc. Their Thanksgiving album is lovely and worth playing year-round, it even includes a few hymn improvisations.

Christmas, Bruce Cockburn (True North). Okay, it is several years old, but not a few people have insisted that this is their favorite Christian album. Quirky arrangements and stellar acoustic guitar work make this truly one of the all time greats.