The Monitor's Guide To Religion Bestsellers

1. THE LADY, HER LOVER, AND HER LORD, by T.D. Jakes, Putnam, $19.99

T.D. Jakes tries valiantly here to provide women with a navigational atlas for today's world. He perceptively assesses some typical pitfalls of relationships and self-perception. Using the Scriptures as the foundation, he hammers home three basic points: (1) Be happy with yourself, (2) have confidence in your relationship to God, and (3) trust that everything else will follow. But that's where the book loses its punch. These ideas could have easily fit into a brief pamphlet. Instead, his concepts get lost in 208 pages of belabored writing and fluffy analogies.

By Kristina Lanier

2. SOUL HARVEST, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale, $22.99

Book 4 in the popular apocalyptic saga set in a future where the world is afflicted by the wrath of God. Rayford Steele and Buck Williams, members of the Tribulation Force, an underground Christian army, search desperately for their loved ones amid the ruins of a global earthquake. This fast-paced roller coaster of a story reads as if it's written for the big screen. Jenkins and LaHaye, however, steep the adventure in biblical references and religious symbolism, so it may alienate readers who are not evangelical Christians.

By Caitlin Shannon

3. JUST LIKE JESUS, by Max Lucado, Word, $19.99

The Rev. Max Lucado's latest book encourages readers to make changes in their lives by following Jesus' example. Lucado infuses his chapters with examples of common challenges, many from his own family's experience. While this book would be of great value to someone exploring faith anew, it's also for any reader who wishes to improve by considering the man who said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Included is a study guide, suggested correlative biblical passages, and questions that correspond to the chapters. By Leigh Montgomery

4. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, BOOK I, by Neale D. Walsch, Putnam, $19.95

Written in a simple, accessible style, this book is based on what the author, the founder of an Oregon-based organization called ReCreation, describes as a three-year conversation with God that he transcribed. It contains some substantial insights and flashes of humor. God is described as an all-good, omnipotent Being, who is constantly communicating with all people. Prayer is described as a process, not a petition. This is the first of three books.

By Abraham T. McLaughlin

5. BOUNDARIES, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Zondervan, $19.99

Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, people need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries in their lives. Having clear boundaries leads to a more balanced and healthy lifestyle, but many people have problems saying 'no' because they don't want to appear selfish; they fear guilt, criticism, and disappointment. Here, Christian psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend provide helpful, biblically based discussions that springboard off a multitude of case studies to which many readers will be able to relate. By Kirsten Conover

6. A PORTRAIT OF JESUS, by Joseph F. Girzone, Doubleday, $18.95

Joseph Girzone, the painter of this portrait of Jesus, is also an artist of the ways of the heart. As a retired Roman Catholic priest and a parish pastor, he colors and shades ecclesiastical laws until what appears are the glorious hues of the great commandment: Love God and thy neighbor as thyself. He contends that the world canvas of intractable conflicts caused by religious self-righteousness would fade into abstraction if the simple and profound picture of Jesus' naturalness and kindness were accepted and practiced more widely. By Mari Murray

7. AMAZING GRACE: A VOCABULARY ..., by Kathleen Norris, Riverhead, $24.95

Norris's third work on her spiritual journey, "Amazing Grace," springs from the poet's intimate awareness of the power of language to shape lives. This is the deeply moving story of how she reclaimed the once-rejected religion of her childhood by making the sometimes off-putting words of faith her own. She explores their meaning (from "eschatology" and "antichrist" to "worship" and "grace") through stories of daily living and what it means to be an active member of a community of faith. Challenging those who scorn "organized religion," this book is a hymn to the power of the Word and the joy of shared Christian experience. By Jane Lampman

8. WHY CHRISTIANITY MUST CHANGE OR DIE, by John S. Spong, Harper, $24

A self-described "believer in exile," Episcopalian Bishop John Spong is no stranger to theological controversy. His latest book courageously reexamines the creed of the Christian church to strip away what he sees as outmoded, exclusive dogma and tradition. His journey includes redefining God, heaven, ethics, prayer, worship, and the distinction between Jesus and the Christ. While some may question certain conclusions, many will respond to his passionate conviction that Christian faith and practice - and the church institution - can be made relevant to today's searchers. By Valerie Parrott

9. DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE BIBLE, by Kenneth Davis, Morrow, $25

For those who shrink from the prospect of reading the Bible cover to cover, Davis, author of the bestselling "Don't Know Much About" series of history guides, delivers a fast-paced overview. Short, selected readings from each book are followed by answers to questions like: Was there a coat of many colors? Who really killed Goliath? He quotes rabbis, popes, pastors, creationists, and evolutionists. "I try not to 'interpret' the Bible," he writes, "so much as to explain what is actually in it." His humor and sometimes in-your-face tone always keep the reader a

10. GOING TO PIECES WITHOUT FALLING APART, by Mark Epstein, Broadway, $23 Both a psychiatrist and a practicing Buddhist, Epstein is in a unique position to apply Eastern beliefs to Western lifestyles in a relevant way. Taking argument with the self-focused approach typical of Western thought (self-development, self-expression, etc.), he offers up Buddhism's converse approach - a wholesale casting off of self. Even if Buddhist thought isn't your doctrine of choice, Epstein's writing is so crisp that it's a palatable introduction to a non-Western belief system. And he uses his own experiences as a therapist to illustrate his points, which helps ground the sometimes erudite psychoanalytic jargon. By Kristina Lanier

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