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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The cross. A symbol of fashion, fad or faith?

"Christianity is a religion founded on the mystery of the cross of Christ." —Leo the Great, Pope from September 29, 440 to 10 November 10, 461

Book Review: The Mystery of the Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life

Author: Judith Couchman

Paperback: 227 pages

Publisher: Intervarsity Press

ISBN-10: 0830835393/ISBN-13: 978-0830835393

The cross. What does it mean to you? A symbol of fashion, fad or faith?

Occasionally, I read a Christian book that grabs my interest and my heart. I confess…the majority of modern-day, nonfiction Christian books recycle the same old yadda, yadda, yadda making me question, “Have I become a skeptic regarding the profoundness of today’s Christian literature?”

Then a book comes along that offers a refreshing and authentic look at faith, provokes deeper thought and prompts tears from deep within. The Mystery of the Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life by Judith Couchman provided to me one of those rare reading experiences that engaged my biblical, artistic and historical inquisitiveness, spiritual intellect and emotional core.

Couchman deftly weaves forty art images of the cross and little known historical facts with biblical passages. The spiritual insights, like a quiet beckoning, intertwines with the reader’s heart to investigate not only the meaning of the crosses we carry in our lives, but the cross carried by Jesus and Christ followers in bygone times.

It’s rare that a writer can turn factual information and antiquated artifacts into penetrating spiritual insights that pierce the heart. Drawing upon a vast array of resources, Judith steps outside the common Christian reference material. The author traces the enigma of the cross’s appearance in pre-Christian times, other cultures and religions. Yet she skillfully transports the mystery of the cross back to how the cross imprinted ancient Christians and our lives today. A master writer, Judith’s command of research, vocabulary and spiritual depth enhances an intriguing read, plus the reader’s takeaway—factually, artistically, theologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Many of her stomach-grabber meditations compelled me to stop to reflect upon the truths fleshed out. Yet I felt a delightful tension and curiosity urging me to continue reading until I’d consumed the last page.

The book also includes the award-winning artist Anne Elhajoui’s delicate line drawings, a classy interior book design, and notes for each chapter. My only wish for this book? More pictures or illustrations of the artifacts described. Readers can also access a free, downloadable study guide.

Judith writes, “The forty short chapters can be read for art appreciation, historical information, personal meditation, spiritual formation, small-group discussion, Lenten observation, or worship insights.” The Mystery of the Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life invites readers to delve into the mystery of a deeper walk in their faith journey with Christ.

This book, an enriching addition any devotional library, is not another fashion or fad book—it’s designed to become a classic.

Read the introduction.

Read an excerpt The Mystery of the Megolith.

Author Bio

Judith Couchman is an author, speaker, writing coach, and art history instructor. She's published more than 40 books, workbooks, and compilations. Her books cover topics as diverse as discovering your purpose, shaping the soul, thriving in difficult times, body image, art history, church history, flower gardening, and breadmaking. Judith presents seminars based on her books and serves as a writing coach for people who want to publish nonfiction.

Judith also teaches art history courses as a part-time instructor for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Judith holds a B.S. in education (English and journalism), an M.A. in journalism, and an M.A. in art history. She lives in Colorado. Visit Judith's blog and website.

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Buy The Mystery of the Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life

Table of Contents

Part One: Ancient Echoes of Christ: The Cross in Pre-Christian Times

1. The Mystery of the Megalith

2. Egyptian Signs of Life

3. The Healing Cross

4. Ugly Roman Power Symbols

Part Two: The Pain and the Glory: The Cross and the Suffering Savior

5. Shouldering the Cross

6. The Garden and Golgotha

7. Inscription Insights

8. The Man of Sorrows

9. Descent from the Cross

Part Three: Early Signs of Faith: The Cross and the First Believers

10. Crucified with Christ

11. The Everywhere Cross

12. Graffiti Marks and Mocks

13. The Sign of Jonah

14. The Outstretched Hands

15. Signs of the Cross

16. The Absent Crucifixion

Part Four: The Great Conversion: The Cross and Early Religious Freedom

17. The Emperor’s Vision

18. Searching for the Real Thing

19. A Cross in the Desert

20. The Missionary Cross

21. Becoming More Christian

Part Five: Daily Signs of Salvation: The Cross in Ancient Everyday Life

22. A Cross for the Darkness

23. Hoping for the Cross

24. Fear No Evil

25. The Trustworthy Standard

26. Coins for the Kingdom

Part Six: Ways to Worship: The Cross in Early Church Life

27. Walking the Cross

28. Follow Me

29. The Cross and the Water

30. Breaking the Bread

31. Take This Cup

32. Decorating the Sacred

33. The Iconoclastic Cross

Part Seven: Enduring Mysteries: The Cross and Its Eternal Power

34. Pilgrims of the Cross

35. The Ecumenical Cross

36. Desperately Seeking Sanctuary

37. Hearts Up

38. The Veiled Cross

39. The Eternal Kingdom

40. To Rise Again

A free copy of this book was provided to the reviewer.