When you’ve got to WOW em. Last minute gifts that are good, beautiful, true.

surprise.jpgOkay, I know we are not supposed to overdo the gift giving thing.  We needn’t fixate and certainly shouldn’t spend more than we can afford.  Yet, the opportunity for giving meaningful gifts–books and items that can truly help people live their lives or bring them literary pleasure to enlarge their heart and mind—is upon us and it seems like a shame not to (in an unfortunate turn of phrase) exploit it.  What I mean to say is that it isn’t just every day you get to give away stuff to people, even faith-based books and helpful resources, without seeming a bit pushy or pesky.  So go for it.  Use this cultural window of opportunity to talk about carols and tell about Jesus and offer gifts that point people to the Way.   Give gifts during the 12 Days and certainly on the gift-givers holy day, Epiphany (when the whole Christmas gift-giving thing got starter, after all, what with those Wise Men splurging so…)

There are those folks that you just want to wow.  Call it pride or something, but you need asurprised-little-boy1.jpg really great gift and you need it now.  Enter our last Advent list, the “when you really gotta wow ’em” list of pretty cool suggestions.  Of course, we think nearly anything we’ve listed the past few months would do, but there are some books that have particular whimsy, rarity or a certain kind of glory.  Enjoy browsing.  Give something like this and I betcha somebody out there is gonna thank you.

Okay, first on the list: give a donation on behalf of your loved one to a cause or charity they might appreciate.  If you want to call us, we could most likely find a book to go along with that—something about global poverty if you donate to Heifer Project or from Gary Haugen about global human rights if you are donating to IJM or Kent Annan on Haiti or a creation care resource if you want to plant a tree in honor of someone.   We could send the new Jars of Clay if you want to donate to Blood:Water Mission.  You get the idea.

Or, how ’bout these ideas:

start something.gifStart Something That Matters Blake Mycoskie (Spiegl & Grau) $22.00  I sure hope you know the story of Toms Shoes.  He gives a pair to kids in poverty with every pair sold.  His story of getting this project going is nothing if not inspiring, and he invites us all to do something important with our lives. With every book you purchase, a new book will be provided to a child in need, too, through their One to One program.  Better yet, give them the book and order a pair of Tom Shoe’s.  Cool idea, eh?


Art That Tells the Story  Christopher Brewer, Michael Wittmer, foreword by Makoto Fujimura (Gospel Through Shared Experience) $24.99  I should be sheepish but I’m not: we were among the first to review this, raved about it anywhere we went and, in fact, have our store’s name in the back showing that we were an early supporter. Much more importantly, this splendid books shows the contours of the large Biblical story—good creation, radical fall, gracious redemption, cosmic restoration–through dozens of stunning and provocative art pieces.  Bible guy Mike Wittmer (who wrote a book I often recommend, Heaven Is a Place on Earth) does a brief essay set off handsomely before each of the four main sections.  The artworks have quotations or epigrams or Bible texts next to them, all designed expertly by the creative wonderkid Chris Brewer.  Nobody has ever done anything like this and as a classy indie project it is, therefore, a bit rare.  Give it as a gift and folks will say: where did you find something like this?  Yes they will.  You can thank us later.

The-Four-Holy-Gospels.jpgThe Four Holy Gospels illuminated and illustrated by Makoto Fujimura CEV (Crossway) $149.99  We have written about our respect and appreciation for the luminous, glittering abstract art of New York modern artist and thoughtful Christian art critic Mako Fujimura.  This is the first time a Bible has been seriously illustrated with abstract paintings, all prayerfully created for this glorious work.  We’ve joined with reviewers world wide to acclaim this one-of-a-kind edition of the gospels.  What a gift this would make for someone with exquisite, contemporary tastes.  Finely printed on heavy stock paper, by the way, The Four Holy Gospels come slip-cased in a sturdy cloth box. A truly exquisite artifact, the sort of thing that you purchase for those most rare occasions.

1A.jpgIndescribable book and DVD  Louie Giglio & Matt Redman (Cook and 268generation) Deluxe hardback coffee table book ($24.99), paperback book ($14.99) and DVD ($7.99)  You may know the popular Passion conference talk that Giglio did; the DVD shows him live, while showing the amazing slides from the Hubbell spacecraft and beyond as he preaches about the grandness of eternity, the awesomeness of God and the great grace that would extend love to the little speck that we are.  That DVD became the 1AA.jpgbook (deluxe hardcover or cheaper paperback) with fabulous pictures and they’ve changed the packaging of the DVD to match the book covers.  So, you could get the hardback + DVD or the paperback + DVD, depending on your budget.  Awesome.  Hey, I ought to be in marketing to think of this nifty combo.  The re-packaging of the DVD is what makes it!  Let us know what you want.  Some sciency wanna be astronomer is going to be dazzled.  More importantly, they will be drawn to God. 

The Swans Are Not Silent series  John Piper (Crossway) $14.99 each  This phrase comes from Luther, who insisted that the ancient voices of the church will not be silenced, that they will endure, continuing to challenge and bless us.  Each of these five books has three very informative, passionate, Christ-exalting mini-biographies of a person from church history who illustrates a particularly poignant characteristic of radical trust and serious discipleship. They are meaty enough to be very educational but they are pastoral, too, flowing out of Piper’s pastoral heart.  Get all five and wrap ’em up.  Or a couple…

SWA01P_200x1000.jpgThe Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther & Calvin .

The Hidden Smile of God:  The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of
John Bunyan, William Cowper & David Brainerd

The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon & William Wilberforce

Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen

Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson & John Paton

ilaymystitchesdown.gifI Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery  Cynthia Grady,
illustrated by Michele Wood (Eerdmans) $17.00 Some children’s picture
books are so very breathtaking and rich in content that they are doubtlessly a
wonderful to gift to an adult.  This collection of poetry is serious,
harsh, and beautiful. The book is done as a series of quilts, and includes poems from around the country.  There are informative descriptions in lovely sidebars that explain allusions or lines (for instance if a poem quotes an old black spiritual or if a quilt shows a particular symbol.)  I don’t know if I agree with Dostoyesvsky’s quip that beauty will save the world but this book and the beauty to which it alludes, certainly points to
redemption. The colors are vibrant, the large hardback fabulously
designed. Highly recommended.

NIV Pure.gifThe NIV Audio Bible  (Zondervan) $79.99  You may know that after years of wrangling with various schools of thought and translation options (remember the TNIV?) the most popular Bible translation in America has been re-done, finely edited with care and relevance. There are all sorts of new editions of the re-edited NIV (including the newly enhanced NIV Study Bible, done with full color…call us for prices and colors!)  This, however, is the very first audio edition of the “new” NIV.  This complete set is done with a single voice recording (George W. Sarris) and includes 66 CDs in a black carrying case.  There are track breaks at every chapter making it easy to find and keep your place.  This is a great idea!

esv-study-bible-leather.jpgESV Study Bible  (Crossway) $74.99  There is little doubt that the English Standard Version is one of, if not the most accurate Bible translation on the market.  It was modeled somewhat on the old RSV so retains some classic rhetoric and rhythms.  It is contemporary but not trendy or simplistic. The poetry reads like poetry, the tone is reverent.  Besides the conservative translation itself, the ESV study notes are thoughtful, evangelically orthodox, helpful, often with a Reformed tendency. There are more than 20,000 notes making this a tremendous resource for serious Bible students.  The 200 full-color maps are very useful, the concordance excellent, there are 80,000 cross-references. The construction of these durable leather editions are the best in the industry, setting high standards of craftsmanship and elegance.  You should take a look at the cover design options here (and watch a few of the twenty videos there that explain the strengths of this study edition) and then come back and order from us, please.  There are hardbacks and compact sized editions as well.

11AA.jpgNLT Parallel Study Bible (Tyndale) $74.99 This is the world’s first parallel study Bible with two study Bibles side by side!  That’s a whole lot of notes!  The New Living Translation is a personal favorite,  upbeat and contemporary and informed by excellent ecumenical scholarship. (A hero of mine, who knows 14 languages and has an academic book on the Dead Sea Scrolls–in Italian!– Al Wolters, led the team that translated Job on this; Marianne Meye Thompson, Raymond Van Leeuwen, Tremper Longman, D.A. Carson, F.F. Bruce, and other amazingly smart folks worked on it as well. It is not related to the old Living Bible paraphrase so don’t let anyone suggest it isn’t a serious translation from the Hebrew and Greek.) The two study editions in this dual-core edition are the Life Application Study Bible (with its practical, useful insight) and the somewhat more scholarly NLT Study Bible.  The NLT Study Bible notes are, like most study Bibles, strong on good data, explanatory facts, background meanings, including cultural and literary insights. The Life Application notes, as I’ve suggested, are all about the daily living applications.  I love the timelines and inspirational overviews of each book of the Bible, making the practical Life App  a personal fav for study.  Combining it with the more studious NLT Study makes this big ol baby a spectacular resource.  Give this and they’ll say “didn’t see that coming!”  Why didn’t somebody think of this sooner? Go here (look to the list on the left) to see the cover options and give us a call.

2A.jpgThe Spirituality of Bread and The
 Spirituality of Wine Boxed Se
Donna Sinclair & Tom Harpur (Northstone) $62.00  We have promoted this handsome series before, and customers enjoy admiring these warm, close-up pictures of wheat and grapes, of bread and wine; either one alone makes a lovely gift.  With the “spirituality of the ordinary” meditations ruminating on the glories of God’s good gifts from the Earth, these are extraordinary volumes.  Put these two together in a boxed set and you not only have a gift that would make any foodie’s eyeballs pop but you have an insinuation of Eucharist that witnesses to ultimate things.

sp of n.jpgThe Spirituality of Nature  Jim Kalnin (Northstone) $37.00  Already have the Bread or Wine ones in this voluptuous series? There is one on grandparents, one on pets, one on art, and this one, for instance, on the wonders of God’s good creation. It is evocative and glorious (not terribly avant garde, just very, very nice photographs.)  These are not heavy-handed with pushy religion so wouldn’t be off-putting to anyone, except maybe to those who don’t believe that what the Bible itself declares: that the creation itself declares the glory of God.  How ’bout those Northern Lights on the cover? Soli Deo Gloria.

Awaken Your Senses.jpgAwaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God  J. Brent Bill & Beth Booram (IVP) $15.00  I had a very early version of this and was so taken with it I told a few folks this summer that it will be one of the books of the year.  Alas, it arrived yesterday!  These two Quakers  walk us through an array of wonder-full meditations and experiences that combine a sensuous engagement with creational givens—taste, hearing, touch, smell, seeing—and ways these activities can help us know God.  There are two things going on here, it seems—helping us be attentive to the world around us, practicing a sensuous worldview and embodied sort of discipleship, and the ways in which this sort of attentiveness can facilitate a deeper relationship with God.  Beautiful! I’ll bet you know somebody for whom this will be a godsend.  It’ll wow ’em, for sure.  You might even couple it with one of the aforementioned Spirituality of… gift books.  By the way, I have read books by both of these authors, and both are wonderful writers, good souls, fine Christian leaders.  And that cover—you have to see it “for real.”  Splendid.  Kudos, again, to InterVarsity Press.

FBTE.jpgFrom Beginning to End: Creation, The Ten Commandments, The Apostle’s Creed, The Apocalypse  Anneke Kaai (Piquant Editions) $29.99  This hard-to-find art book is imported from Holland (and the cover doesn’t do justice for the allusive, moody art that captures in col
or and tone so very, very much.)  The forward by Calvin Institute on Worship director John Witvliet notes how historic truths come alive through these large abstract paintings and can enhance our worship.

 Some may recall that Ms Kaai did a hardback edition of abstract paintings inspired by the text of the Psalms with Eugene Peterson. It was called The Psalms: An Artist’s Impression (Piquant) We have some of those that are just a bit dinged up and slightly hurt—we will give one of those fabulous hardbacks of her abstract paintings coupled with Peterson’s paraphrases with a purchase of From Beginning to End.  A great deal, and if you give them both, you’ll really wow ’em.  Or keep one for yourself…
IoG.jpgImages of God for Young Children Marie-Helene Delval, illustrated by Barbara Nascimbeni (Eerdmans) $16.50  One of the more playfully artful children’s books about God that we’ve seen in several years.  Each colorful scene explores a metaphor or image for God, all from the Bible.  I like the bold statement on the back cover: “It is impossible to know what God looks like.  But the Bible describes many other ways that God is revealed to us. God is joy and wisdom. God is light, and bread, and breath. We have seen God’s face in Jesus Christ. This book uses simple language to hep young children discover these images of God in their world.”

bssm.jpgBrother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures  re-imagined by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton (Handprint Books/Chronicle Books) $17.99  You know of course the prayer of Saint Francis. And you know Saint Katherine, kid’s author extraordinaire. You may not know Dalton, but she has decorated other books with her truly stunning Pennsylvania Dutch paper-cutting art of scherenschnitte which is a 16th century German/Swiss paper-cutting art.  On a striking black background she offers her intricate art with much to look at, much to notice, much to gush over.  Paterson’s retelling of the classic celebration of creation is lovely.  What a gift this would be, new, unexpected, beautiful, true, and good.

on the I.jpgOn the Incarnation  Athanasius (St. Vladamir’s Seminary Press) $15.00  You know somebody that wants to keep Christ in Christmas? This Greek dude said as much in the 3rd century. Okay, not really, but you get my point.  C.S. Lewis wrote the forward to this small classic, known as De Incarnatione Verbi Dei if you like your Latin.

I’ve wanted to give a shout out to a few Christmas and Advent albums we like, or that are new, or that may be a bit uncommon, that we still have in stock.  They can’t unwrap a download under that tree or mistletoe, now can they?  We have plenty more, from the sexy Over the Rhine to the soothing oboe/guitar duo Tingstad & Rumble to the terminally cute new She & Him. I really like the new David Crowder (Oh the Joy), and a great duo called Martha’s Trouble from a few years back.  Carolyn Arends Irrational Season is very special for a lot of reasons.  We’ve got choirs (including the new John Rutter), classical, jazz, bluegrass, black gospel, kids. Call if you want to ask about others.
CD My Favorite Gifts  various (Ramseur Records) $11.99 Organized by the bassist for the Avett Brothers, this holiday benefit album features The Wood Brothers, Jessica Lea Mayfield,  Overmountain Men, Jim Avett, David Mayfield, and more. Pretty rowdy and rural. One guy does a cover of Jackson Browne’s The Rebel Jesus.

CelticChristmas_375.jpgCD  Celtic Christmas various (Putumayo) $14.98  Okay, our
local customers know we often are playing celtic fiddle tunes or moody
Irish anthems here in the shop.  We have lots of Celtic Christmas stuff,
from Irish labels, from Windham Hill, etc.  This one is brand new and
includes a dozen really fine players.  A few are renowned (Aine Minogue,
Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola) and a few I’ve not heard before.  And Dougie
MacLean doing Auld Lang Syne? It reminds you why green is one of the
Christmas colors.

CD Christmas Bruce Cockburn (Rounder) $18.99  I hope you saw my initial review of the amazing new book by Brian Walsh about Bruce Cockburn (Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination) which noted how fond I am of Cockburn’s work.  I am so, so, so glad Cockburn’s Christmas album is available again after a few mysterious years out of print. It is spared down, slow at times, joyfully rowdy at times, a truly enjoyable acoustic profoundly Christmas album.  Every season, year by year, I hear people say this is one of their all time favorite Christmas recordings. He sings one song in a rare Native language (The Huron Carol), another in French, a couple are Appalachian and a few are sweet instrumentals on his clear finger-picked guitar. Produced by T-Bone Burnett. 

CD Carole King: A Holiday Carole (Hear Music) $18.97  Pair it with the James Taylor Christmas and give it to your mom.  It’s Carole King for crying out loud!

CD Christmastime: The Day a Child Appeared Larry Norman (Solid Rock) $14.95  If you don’t know this Dylan-esque, thin-voiced Jesus rocker, or the old Randy Stonehill song Christmastime that leads off this album, skip it.  Although I’m saying that the Neil Young-ish version of The First Noel made me cry the first time I heard it.  The grandaddy of Christian rock. A pretty rare find.
CD The Dawn of Grace  Sixpence None the Richer (Nettwerk) $9.98  I loved Leigh Nash’s lovely alt-acoustic remake of hymns that came out last month (I posted one on facebook over Thanksgiving) and that reminded me how cool she really is.  Then Pandora started playing this album and I realized we have it in stock.  Come on people, this is a great collection of original and traditional Christmas songs by the band that took their odd name from a C.S. Lewis line. Their rendition of Silent Night includes some very cool harmonies with Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay.

CD Your King Has Come various (Detuned Radio) $16.00  This is collection by artists who have been known to play with Indelible Grace.  Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken Jill Philips, Andrew Osenga, Matthew Smith, Kathy Bowser, Matthew Perryman Jones, and more.  Acoustic guitars, accordians, violins, country-alt, singer-songwriter, authentic passion.  They care about these songs and bring them to new life without messing with them much.  Sweet.

CD Songs of Joy & Peace Yo-Yo Ma & Friends (Sony Classical) $13.99  You may know that world-famous cellist Yo-Yo has been slumming around, doing non-classical albums with all sorts of folks, CDs we like and stock. This one came out last year, with 25 tracks, cool collaborations with everybody from James Taylor doing Here Comes the Sun to mandolin master Chris Thile doing Improvisations on Dona Nobis Pacem, to jazz man Dave Brubeck (Concordia) and a number of international players, including some innovative classical Asian musicians. Very, very nice, good all winter long.
51LlBx1beRL._SL500_AA300_.jpgCD Fragile Incarnation Bill Carter and the Presbybop Quartet (Presbybop Music) $15.95 You aren’t going to find this in many stores, but it is genuine jazz, very well done, a bit of mellow stuff, but mostly the real big deal.  Be-bop and more.  There are twelve smokin’ instrumental jazz versions of standard carols/hymns and two originals, including Welcome Home, a song that I heard made Walt Brueggemann get all choked up.  This would make a great gift for jazz music lovers.  Combine it with his double disc set inspired by the Psalms and a trip to Iona, Psalms Psalms Without Words (Presbybop Music; $20.00) and you’ll have good stuff to talk about for months. 
CD  Welcome Inn: A Phil Keaggy Christmas (Kingsway) $9.99  Some people will recall Keaggy as an early voice in contemporary Christian music, known by many as one of the best guitar players on the planet.  Here is a gentle, pop, holiday album, most originals with a few wonderfully-realized carols. A rare treat for old fans.

CD Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree various (Tooth & Mail/Solid State Records/SEC Recordings) $9.99  Head-banging, hard Christian rock from the premier label in that genre.  They do a Christmas anthology every year.  This year includes Christmas songs ramped up by Sent By Ravens, Anberlin, and Ivoryline and recent stand-by rockers August Burns Red, Thousand Foot Krutch, Demon Hunters and more. Some kid is gonna love you if you put this in his skateboarding sneaker.  Or a lovely little Christmas stocking, if he’ll let you put on up.

CD Songs for Christmas Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty ) $15.99 Words can’t express how weirdly wonderful this hipster-approved boxed set of 5 CDs is.  Low fi, banjo band doing goofy Xmas songs and beautiful Advent pieces and hymns, some with horns. Listen to a few on Pandora and you’ll want to own it. To give it will make you look either very weird or very cool.
CD What If Mozart Wrote “White Christmas”  The Northern Lights Orchestra (Perfect Sound) $18.97  Yep this is just what it sounds like, a collection of standard holiday songs done in a Mozartian style.  This is very, very fun.

                                                                How about this: give a hand-made voucher for any      forthcoming, not yet released title that we’ll send ’em theStill.jpg week it releases?  You just make a little card, maybe cutting out a picture of the cover.

For instance, may we recommend Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner (HarperOne; $24.99) which releases the end of January.  For fans of one of our finest writers, this will be a moving look into Lauren’s inner landscape, the themes of doubt and the absence of God, dealing with depression and a quest for a center still-point as she faced some painful losses.  She is a wonderfully talented writer that I will drop everything for, and many others will too.  Somebody will be grateful if you promise to get this for them.  If they are her fans–Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath, Real Sex— they’d want you to get it from an indie store, too, so why not pre-order it from us, and make them a crafty little IOU.

Or, how about that hand made, personalized Hearts & Minds gift certificate that we invitedgift noel.jpg readers to enjoy giving last year.  Basically, you make your own tonight and give it to your loved one tomorrow.  Send us their name and the amount for which you’d like it be. Send us your cc at our secure website order form page and we’ll record their gift certifica
te here as credit for their use at their convenience.  You do the design any way you want.  If it is really cool, you should send us a picture for fun.

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