Things Unseen:

Living In Light of Forever
Mark Buchanan
260 pages, $12.99

Prepare to Die
"I'm dying, and you're dying, and that's that," writes Buchanan. "Is there a way to remember this and not be consumed by it?" Well, yes and no. In this follow-up to his debut, Your God Is Too Safe, Buchanan considers our yearning for heaven—"heavenly-mindedness," he calls it, or learning to become "heaven-bent." He grounds readers in how this "homesickness" shapes a Christian's days on Earth, and urges readers to live so that death comes as a completion, not merely an ending. At the same time, he acknowledges how even those with deep convictions about heaven may sometimes find it "a terrible and mocking knowledge, more a taunt than a consolation" in the face of suffering and death. Buchanan has a pastoral penchant for integrating illustrations into his text, drawing from such diverse sources as Monty Python and the Holy Grail to old letters from his father. His language is delightfully fresh: humor mixed with genuine poignancy, certainty without arrogance. Readers will be compelled not to lose heart and to make the most of the waiting.

The Wisdom of Tenderness:

What Happens When God's Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives
Brennan Manning
Harper San Francisco,
179 pages, $21.95

Oh Mercy
"Fierce mercy" took this former Catholic priest and alcoholic from near death to life, and now, as a popular author and retreat speaker, Manning doesn't mince words. He believes that in spiritual circles, "the superfluity of much useless information and knowledge has been given pride of place over wisdom and personal authenticity." Manning offers his book as "a compass rather than a manual, a beacon rather than a handbook, a vision rather than fifty-six steps to spiritual maturity." (A little more than half of the material has been reworked and updated from a previous book, The Wisdom of Accepted Tenderness.) Manning points readers to an acceptance of being loved by God, a way of life rather than a technique. Living in tenderness, he explains, means living unafraid, in trust, transparency, and compassion. It brings about reconciliation, softens us in the crucible of pain and suffering, and draws us into deeper communion with God. It is not "chronic niceness, sloppy sentimentality, or a soporific spirituality for the softheaded." Manning loves alliteration, and he never uses one word, image, or phrase where three will do. For him, it works. Each chapter includes a suggested reading list, and his list of questions for self-examination in Chapter Five alone is worth the price of admission.

Courageous Leadership

Bill Hybels
256 pages, $19.99

Pastor to Pastor
The senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, notes in his introduction that of the many books he's written, there is "none that I felt as strongly about as this one." Aimed squarely at church leaders, this book includes material from Hybels's conferences and workshops, and is heavily weighted with illustrations from his ministry at Willow, his "real-life laboratory" for almost 30 years. Hybels is convinced that "the Church, the bride of Christ, upon which the eternal destiny of the world depends, will flourish or falter largely on the basis of how we lead." He outlines steps for becoming a strong leader: receiving and communicating vision, enabling its fulfillment, and taking responsibility for personal growth. Hybels writes with a confidence born of successful leadership—he's never shy about describing how well his ideas work—but is at his best when admitting his struggles and mistakes. Calling the failure to recognize the importance of the spiritual gift of leadership "the great tragedy of the church in our time," Hybels is passionate about helping leaders stay the course.

The Blessed:

A Sinner Reflects on Living the Christian Life Sharon McMahon Moffitt
208 pages, $12.99

A Theological Poet
This first-time author writes that she does not consider herself a theologian, "unless you take the word by its roots—one who studies the things of God." Moffitt, a poet and creative-writing teacher, explores the Beatitudes, looking at them as a way to personal transformation. Whether she is writing about "a pesky bit of Scripture"—one Christians would rather not take at face value—or chafing at the clichés of "canned Christianity," her poetic craftsmanship makes the text sing ("I am breaking up inside; my resolve to be stoic is an iceberg about to cave in the heat of a blazing, August sun"). There is honest confession and vulnerability as she writes about her father's suicide, her marriage, and her fears. Moffitt never succumbs to sentimentality, and offers excavations of the soul that invite the reader to dig more deeply. Her writing is as comfortable as an unhurried conversation, with all of the potential rabbit trails, tangents, and anecdotes this implies. It's also permeated with endearing humor—"I'm utterly astounded that God wants me for a companion; there is no accounting for taste." Moffitt's insights and imagery make this a rich book to savor.

Cindy Crosby is a frequent book reviewer for Publishers Weekly.

Related Elsewhere

Things Unseen, The Wisdom of Tenderness, Courageous Leadership, and The Blessed are available at

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