Inspiring gifts for Hanukkah and Christmas!

Give the gift of Wisdom, Hope and Resilience

Choose books that will make your life—and your community—healthier and happier

AS WE REACH THE YEAR-END HOLIDAYS in 2022, we are pleased to recommend wonderful Hanukkah and Christmas “gifts of reading” that will enrich the lives of your loved ones well into the New Year.


Our 2022 holiday-shopping list starts with:

Torah Tutor—A Contemporary Torah Study Guide

CLICK ON any of the covers with this story to visit the books’ Amazon pages.

When the first lights of Hanukkah are kindled on Sunday December 18, this year, a wonderful gift for someone you love could be Torah Tutor—A Contemporary Torah Study Guide by Rabbi Lenore Bohm, a beloved Jewish leader and long-time educator.

Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom and the long legacy of wisdom that continues to shine from the Jewish tradition—a legacy that begins with these dramatic stories from the Bible.

In Torah Tutor, Rabbi Bohm draws on her own lifetime of teaching about the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, starting with Genesis. Reviewers of her book praise the timeliness of the themes lifted up in this contemporary self-guided study, which is ideal for individual seekers and group discussions.

“Reading this may become one of the most meaningful parts of your week, renewing, enriching and energizing you,” says the Foreword by Rabbi Sally J. Priesand, America’s first woman ordained as a rabbi.

AND, THIS BOOK ALSO IS IDEAL AS A CHRISTMAS GIFT. Have you got someone on your shopping list who might be tough to shop for—but you know they love the Bible and enjoy inspirational reading? Most of us know someone like that in our families or circles of friends. This year, consider giving this book. Christian reviewers agree with Rabbi Priesand’s conclusion that this book is full of fresh energy. Here’s just one example, a review of Torah Tutor by the Rev. Sharon Buttry, a noted author herself and a peace activist through American Baptist Churches: “As a Christian, I have always loved the stories and wisdom in the Bible. Rabbi Bohm expresses that same love in Torah Tutor. With each portion of the Torah, she lovingly crafts questions and insights that draw us into the heart of God.”

Care to learn more about Torah Tutor? You can jump right to the book’s Amazon page, or you might enjoy looking at the Torah Tutor Resource Page on our Front Edge Publishing website.


Become an Ally of the Michigan State University Bias Busters

In 2022, the Michigan State University School of Journalism Bias Busters—a unique student-reporting project—reached important new milestones. In their mission to encourage cross-cultural understanding and dispel myths about American minorities, the Bias Busters published their 19th and 20th books.

Plus, the MSU Bias Busters learned that Michigan’s Department of Health & Human Services has recognized the value of these short, easy-to-read books by deciding to place those books in 17 of the statewide agency’s regional offices. Leaders in MDHHS’s Lansing home office invited their staffers in each regional office to select the guides that would be most beneficial in their communities.

Among the top titles chosen by these regional offices were:

If you would like to see all 20 of our titles, so far, here’s a link to the Amazon Bias Busters Kindle page.

AND, HERE’S A SPECIAL GIFT IDEA: Consider giving a personal gift to your own congregation or other community group this December as a way to encourage a greater sensitivity toward minorities in your area. Consider adding a selection of these books to your congregational library—or starting a community-outreach class that specializes in cultural competency. Order your own hand-picked selection of these guides and you’ve got a tailor-made gift for your community that will keep giving gifts to readers throughout 2023.


Two New Months of Inspirational Reading—

30 Days with America’s High School Coaches

And, 30 Days with E. Stanley Jones

IN 2022, our publishing house doubled the scope of our “30 Days With …” book series with two new volumes that offer a total of two fresh months of inspirational reading.

In January 2022, we launched Martin Davis’s 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches. (And a special notes for early-bird shoppers: Amazon deeply discounted the hardcover version of Martin’s book leading up to Black Friday. We’re not sure how long that Amazon sale will last, so order your copy immediately and you might get a real deal!)

What’s in this book? High school coaches shape millions of lives. These 30 short and inspiring stories show the diversity of approaches by coaches nationwide in building athletes’ hearts, minds and bodies to form successful teams, strong individuals and future leaders. The coaches profiled in this book come from every corner of the nation and every socio-economic setting, highlighting how they combine imagination, a selfless commitment to their athletes and a strong internal compass. In this book, you will find true stories of coaches who lead male and female athletes in a wide variety of sports.

We followed that volume with John E. Harnish’s 30 Days with E. Stanley Jones.

In his day, E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) was described as the “greatest missionary since Saint Paul.” More than an evangelist, he was the author of 27 books that sold millions of copies. He also was a statesman, the founder of Christian ashrams, an interfaith leader as well as a spokesman for peace, racial inclusion and social justice. He was a confidant of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

Does a preacher from the previous century have anything to say to this generation? Yes! His clarion call to justice and loving community was shaped by his friendship with Mahatma Gandhi and influenced the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Introduction to Christian Ethics

With Christianity in crisis, Dr. David Gushee lays out a faithful path forward

THIS IS A PERFECT GIFT for anyone on your shopping list who hopes there is a robust and loving future for Christianity as a global faith. There are millions of folks like that across America. For example, nearly all of us know someone who loves their congregation, but wonders if the Christian religion is endangered by the worldwide tug-of-war over what the faith requires of political leaders. Dr. David Gushee is widely regarded as America’s leading Christian ethicist and leads readers through a wide range of topics—including issues that show up in headline news stories on a daily basis.

In our February 2022 Cover Story about the launch of this book, we reported:

At this historic turning point in the faith of 2.4 billion people worldwide, Christian ethicist Dr. David Gushee is publishing his magnum opus: Introducing Christian Ethics—Core Convictions for Christians Today. This is a unique and powerful book. It becomes the capstone on a long series of Dr. Gushee’s books by giving readers 25 chapters drawn from his decades of teaching Christian Ethics at Mercer University—a career that has led to honors showered on Dr. Gushee from around the world. In recent years, those honors have included election by his peers for terms as president of both the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics.

PLUS—THIS IS AN IDEAL CHOICE for folks on your holiday shopping list who prefer to listen to books. With each chapter of this book, readers are provided with simple-to-use codes that provide either the audio of that chapter, or the video of Dr. Gushee presenting that chapter. Readers with a smartphone, for example, can choose to listen to Dr. Gushee—or to see him in full video. That makes this a great choice for small-group discussion as well, since the audio and video clips that small groups enjoy come within the pages of this book.


Suzy Farbman tells us the story of …

‘How we welcomed Detroit’s first avant-garde art movement into our home’

AMONG THE MOST BELOVED of the columnists in our Read The Spirit weekly magazine is veteran journalist Suzy Farbman. Her occasional columns introduce us to remarkable men, women and families from around the world—people who surprise, delight and inspire us. Whenever a Suzy Farbman column appears in our magazine, each new story sparks a shower of emails to our offices thanking us for Suzy’s work.

In 2022, Suzy Farbman turned her journalist’s eye inward and published a beautiful, full-color exploration of her own home and her many years of relationships with artists from Detroit’s “First Generation Cass Corridor Community.”

In her column describing the creation of this new book, Suzy wrote:

I thought about calling this book Love Stories for the Angels of Detroit. The phrase comes from a collaboration between poet John Yau and painter Archie Rand referenced in the text. Art appreciation has been a love affair for me. And my life has been blessed with many angels. … This book is a story of the art world I knew. An art world less destabilized by politics and political correctness. Not forced into months of seclusion by a deadly virus. A world where people felt comfortable in crowded galleries and museums. Where we relished squeezing together for the taking of a toast and tea. This is the story of the Detroit I knew and wrote about, mostly in the 1970s and 80s, the art world I experienced, the joy I had in collecting.

Have you got an art lover on your shopping list?

How about a native Michigander who loves stories about the creativity and potential of Detroit?

Visit the book’s Amazon page and consider ordering a copy right now in hardcover—a stunning gift to open at the holidays that we guarantee will inspire your loved one to flip one page after another—as they enjoy all the brilliant and sometimes startling images.


‘Shining Brightly’

Personalize This Story of Resilience for Hanukkah or Christmas

THEN, THIS IS A SPECIAL OFFER IN OUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING LIST: If you purchase a copy of Howard Brown’s Shining Brightly right now from Amazon—go immediately to Howard’s website ShiningBrightly.com and click on the link “Contact” (or just scroll down on Howard’s homepage and you’ll find that Contact box).

From the Contact box—send Howard a note asking for a free personalized bookplate for the holidays. Bookplates are a traditional way to personalize our books. Howard has lovely rectangular plates on which he adds a brief message (just a few words), then he adds his author autograph—and he mails these finished bookplates to readers who request them. You’ll get his envelope in first-class mail, add it to the book you’ve purchased and you’ll have a personalized gift that your loved one will treasure.

And as we always say at the holidays: Act now! You’ve got plenty of time to prepare this unique, personalized gift before the start of Hanukkah or Christmas day—but mail service always slows down in December and, in this case, you’ll need to receive both the book and Howard’s bookplate to create the perfect gift.

“I’m happy to personalize these books,” Howard said. “Of course, I’m Jewish. So, I’m happy to write a ‘Happy Hanukkah Sarah …’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah Sam …’ bookplate. But I’m also happy to help families celebrate Christmas with a ‘Merry Christmas Laura …’ or ‘Merry Christmas Larry …’ note. Just remind people to make it clear in their ‘Contact’ message to me what phrase they want—and be sure to give me their complete mailing address.”

Want to learn more about this inspiring book? One of the three main themes of Howard’s books is interfaith peacemaking. He’s Jewish and is internationally known for reaching out across the boundaries of our various faiths to make friends and build healthier communities. Read Howard’s Thanksgiving story, published last week, to learn more about the themes of his book.


Celebrate our 10th anniversary with Visual Parables

Give yourself and friends a gift of Faith & Film

CLICK ON THIS COVER IMAGE from the November 2022 issue of Visual Parables Journal to visit a page explaining how to subscribe. You also will see a blue “button” you can click to read this November issue as a sample of what you’ll get in coming months.

For a decade, Read The Spirit magazine has appeared every Monday with a popular Faith & Film section closing out our weekly issues. We’ve heard from readers around the world who enjoy Film Critic Edward McNulty’s thought-provoking reviews along with the connections he draws to religious wisdom. Each week, McNulty freely posts those new reviews in our online magazine for readers to share—and thousands of readers have done so from the more than 500 issues of Read The Spirit since he joined our team.

Meanwhile, McNulty has supported his work by selling annual subscriptions to the PDF-format Visual Parables Journal, which our team publishes as a paid monthly supplement to our online magazine. Every issue of Visual Parables Journal—which is easy to download and read on any digital device—is packed with complete discussion guides for the wide array films McNulty has been reviewing that month. Those discussion guides range from family films to the latest Hollywood blockbusters—and from provocative documentaries to special “indie” releases.

At this point in his celebrated career, McNulty has devoted nearly half a century to reviewing films—with a distinctive emphasis on connections he draws to faith. For the first four decades of his efforts as a film critic, his reviews were widely shared across the religious world via various magazines, websites and newsletters. Some of his collected discussion guides even appeared as paperback books. We especially recommend his Jesus Christ: Movie Star, a collection of discussion guides exploring a dozen different film depictions of Jesus.

A GROWING TREND:
CONGREGATION-WIDE FAITH & FILM FESTIVALS

Over this past decade together, we’ve also been hearing from a growing number of congregations nationwide where folks like to schedule their own faith-and-film festivals. They often are held in January, since it’s fun to go to the movies together during the darkest winter months.

We’ve also heard from small groups in congregations that enjoy their own faith-and-film discussions in an ongoing way throughout each year. Of course, the Visual Parables Journal is the perfect companion for such groups.

Finally, we know that many individuals simply enjoy reflecting on the many questions McNulty weaves into the discussion guides that make up each issue of the Journal.

Want to get started right now? Here’s a link to the web page that introduces Visual Parables Journal, which includes all the information you’ll need to subscribe.

Want to see more samples? Here’s the Visual Parables Journal page that features recent issues, so you can get an idea of the films Edward McNulty features.

PEOPLE magazine celebrates the work of ‘Struck by Hope’ author Jeanine Patten-Coble

So many families agree:
The world’s a better place because of Jeanine’s work

Cancer-survival cheerleader, coach and philanthropist Jeanine Patten-Coble is featured in PEOPLE magazine in a feel-good feature, headlined: Mom Who Beat Breast Cancer Gives Free Vacations to Patients and Their Families to Make ‘Priceless Memories’ 

Why did PEOPLE’s editors choose to celebrate her work? Because, as those editors explain: “For the past 12 years, breast cancer survivor Jeanine Patten-Coble has created getaways for thousands of other patients and loved ones.”

The story by Johnny Dodd and Wendy Grossman Kantor, says in part:

The retreats are exactly what cancer patients—and their families—need during their healthcare battles. Charlotte-area youth track coach Toshika Hudson-Canon, 43—who was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer in January and spent a week at a beachside home on Emerald Isle, N.C., in August with her three kids and husband—found the getaway was relaxing and transformative.

“It was life-changing,” she says, “especially for my children, who became friends with other children in the same situation.”

Care to read the entire PEOPLE feature?

Check it out on PEOPLE’s website.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Care to learn more about Jeanine’s work?

Get the whole story in her inspiring memoir, Struck by Hope: The True Story of Answering God’s Call and the Creation of Little Pink Houses of Hope.

America is opening up to our LGBTQ neighbors, and Dr. David Gushee leads the effort to help Christian families welcome this news.

.

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of Read The Spirit magazine

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

The news flash this week from The Washington Post was striking: “This election made history for the diversity of candidates running. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people ran for office in all 50 states for the first time. The number of such candidates on the ballot also increased 18 percent from 2020, many of them galvanized by a wave of measures in Republican-led states attacking the community.”

At our Front Edge publishing house, we are encouraged by this news because we publish the most influential book helping Christian families to welcome their LGBTQ relatives, friends, coworkers and neighbors: Changing Our Mind. Here are two 2022 headlines about the impact of this book:

Dr. Gushee followed up that best-seller with his Introducing Christian Ethics, which steps back to provide a masterful overview of the entire field of Christian Ethics—including the foundational values that support such openness. Here’s a 2022 headline about that news:

Why are Dr. Gushee’s books so important to read and share with others?

Let Dr. Gushee’s readers answer that question on the basis of the 103 memorable quotes they have excerpted from his books and posted into the Goodreads quote board to share with others around the world, including:

  • “It says something really terrible when the least safe place to deal with sexual orientation and identity issues is the Christian family and church.”
  • “The sense that card-carrying American evangelicalism now requires acquiescence to attitudes and practices that negate core teachings of Jesus is fueling today’s massive exodus.”
  • “Make your church a context where parents know that the right response to their teenagers is never to reject them as human beings, never to throw them out.”

And there are 100 more quotes that readers have chosen to post to the Goodreads memorable-quotes page honoring Dr. Gushee’s work.

What’s the evidence, this week, that our communities nationwide are more open to LGBTQ leaders?

Of course, not all of the LGBTQ candidates were winners in their races across the 50 states, but the research compiled by the non-profit Victory Fund is quite compelling, including:

  • 416 LGBTQ people ran for state legislatures this year, the most in U.S. history.
  • The proportion of LGBTQ candidates of color grew significantly in 2022, accounting for 38.2 percent of all LGBTQ candidates.
  • Candidates who are not cisgender (including transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming candidates) ran in record-breaking numbers, representing 13.9 percent of all LGBTQ candidates compared to 7.9 percent in 2020.

Dr. Gushee saw this coming

Early in his work with these new books, Dr. Gushee posted a now very-well-known manifesto online, headlined: Ten Reasons Why I Changed My Mind on Full LGBTQ Inclusion

Reason No. 3 is: I took seriously the growing gap between cultural acceptance and progress for LGBTQ people vs. Christian intransigence—and concluded that the culture was closer to being right.

That’s exactly what is continuing to happen across America and showed up in record numbers in political races this month.

Have you already read Dr. Gushee’s book? Consider ordering a new copy of Changing Our Mind for a friend or family member.

 

 

Celebrate our 10th anniversary with Visual Parables by giving yourself and friends a gift of Faith & Film

.

Pop some popcorn and invite your friends.

.

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of Read The Spirit magazine

CLICK ON THIS COVER IMAGE from the November 2022 issue of Visual Parables Journal to visit a page explaining how to subscribe. You also will see a blue “button” you can click to read this November issue as a sample of what you’ll get in coming months.

For a decade, Read The Spirit magazine has appeared every Monday with a popular Faith & Film section closing out our weekly issues. We’ve heard from readers around the world who enjoy Film Critic Edward McNulty’s thought-provoking reviews along with the connections he draws to religious wisdom.

Each week, McNulty freely posts those new reviews in our online magazine for readers to share—and thousands of readers have done so from the more than 500 issues of Read The Spirit since he joined our team.

Meanwhile, McNulty has supported his work by selling annual subscriptions to the PDF-format Visual Parables Journal, which our team publishes as a paid monthly supplement to our online magazine. Every issue of Visual Parables Journal—which is easy to download and read on any digital device—is packed with complete discussion guides for the wide array films McNulty has been reviewing that month. Those discussion guides range from family films to the latest Hollywood blockbusters—and from provocative documentaries to special “indie” releases.

At this point in his celebrated career, McNulty has devoted nearly half a century to reviewing films—with a distinctive emphasis on connections he draws to faith. For the first four decades of his efforts as a film critic, his reviews were widely shared across the religious world via various magazines, websites and newsletters. Some of his collected discussion guides even appeared as paperback books. We especially recommend his Jesus Christ: Movie Star, a collection of discussion guides exploring a dozen different film depictions of Jesus.

In 2013, Read The Spirit agreed to become the host of McNulty’s wealth of faith-and-film materials—and to become the monthly publishers of his Journal. That’s why we say we’re coming up on the 10th anniversary of publishing with Edward McNulty.

A Growing Trend:
Congregation-Wide Faith & Film Festivals

Over this past decade together, we’ve also been hearing from a growing number of congregations nationwide where folks like to schedule their own faith-and-film festivals. They often are held in January, since it’s fun to go to the movies together during the darkest winter months.

We’ve also heard from small groups in congregations that enjoy their own faith-and-film discussions in an ongoing way throughout each year. Of course, the Visual Parables Journal is the perfect companion for such groups.

Finally, we know that many individuals simply enjoy reflecting on the many questions McNulty weaves into the discussion guides that make up each issue of the Journal.

Discovering Delightful Movies ‘No One Is Talking About’

What is the best thing about Visual Parables Journal, according to subscribers who have sent us feedback over the years?

Edward McNulty is known, each month, for looking beyond the most popular blockbusters. He likes to surprise readers with news about independent productions, films from around the world and he especially likes to find unusual movies about subjects of deep social concern. You’ll discover movies in Visual Parables Journal that you won’t hear about anywhere else.

Plus, ever since the pandemic began in early 2020, McNulty has been on the lookout for movies that viewers can stream online for free, or perhaps for a small rental charge. You can enjoy many of the films he writes about in the comfort of your own home.

Please, check out Visual Parables

Want to get started right now? Here’s a link to the web page that introduces Visual Parables Journal, which includes all the information you’ll need to subscribe.

Want to see more samples? Here’s the Visual Parables Journal page that features recent issues, so you can get an idea of the films Edward McNulty features.

Tina Welling’s ‘Tuesdays in Jail’ tells how she began unlocking some of America’s imprisoned souls with pencil and paper

Illustration generated by AI via DALL-E 2

.

Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history
is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact,
as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850.
New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik

.

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

For many years, America has responded to crime and conflict with the mass incarceration of millions of souls—by far the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, including nations that we consider especially draconian. One out of every five people incarcerated in our world today is in our American prison system.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Are there any signs of hope? Of course, and you can read more about some of those efforts to address mass incarceration at the end of this article.

But there also are many grassroots efforts spreading across the U.S. And, for more than a decade now, one of those fruitful efforts has been author Tina Welling’s volunteer “journaling” workshops that have begun unlocking many of those imprisoned souls in ways that may help prepare them for life after imprisonment.

She describes her unique approach to teaching writing in her inspiring new memoir, Tuesdays in Jail—What I Learned Teaching Journaling to Inmates, which is available now from Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.

“The one quality I continue to encounter is low self esteem among those who are living in this system,” Welling said in an interview about her new book. “And such low self esteem makes it harder to have a real relationship with someone after you get out of this system again. To continue to pummel someone who has low self esteem is not good for our society. I hoped having the inmates write and talk about their inner lives would make them more human—and would build their self esteem. And, in many cases, that has worked. You can read the stories in this book.”

In the middle of her book, she describes her goal this way:

“I wanted the men who came to the journaling workshops to know that dignity resided in a place where no person or circumstance could rob them of it. And that was a challenge when, following our workshop, each man would endure a body search before being led back to his cell. And yet there was no better time to learn tha you were not the victim you were treated as. If the inmates could acquire a sense of self-worth under such circumstances, I imagined they could own it almost unchallenged for the rest of their lives.”

Outreach to our imprisoned neighbors is central to our religious traditions

We are recommending her book to our readers for individual reading—and for small-group discussion in your congregation or community—because we know our magazine’s community of readers includes lots of other authors, journalists, educators and community leaders who feel a similar calling to somehow reach out to America’s enormous imprisoned population.

In fact, that mandate is central to the teachings of Catholic and Protestant churches as well as other faith traditions.

When you read Tina’s words—”dignity resided in a place where no person or circumstance could rob them of it”—she is echoing a key emphasis of Pope John Paul II’s teaching about the dignity of each soul. “The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person,” he wrote.

However, the interconnections between inmates’ lives and religion is complex. Sometimes, “religion” and the earliest religious images and models in our lives can be part of the problem.

When religion is a part of the problem

Tina does not represent any particular religious tradition in her work, but often has found herself interacting with her workshop participants as they wrestle with spiritual questions in their own lives. She brings a broad-based approach to those conversations, ranging from Christian and Buddhist wisdom to her own deep awareness of spiritual insights that arise from the natural world. (For more on that, you might also enjoy her earlier book, Writing Wild—Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature, also available from Amazon.)

Tina’s approach—which she describes in the many true stories in Tuesdays in Jail—always springs from questions she brings to her sessions. She never preaches or attempts to prescribe her own solutions.

“I do bring my own awareness of universal spiritual truths into my work, but I never talk to inmates in specifically religious concepts,” Welling said in our interview. One reason she draws this strict line is that she sometimes discovers that experiences with “religion”—or with “religious people” in the inmates’ lives—are associated more with trauma than with health or wellbeing.

“A lot of inmates have had hard experiences with ‘religion,'” Welling said. “Some of that started very early in their lives, sometimes in childhood with feelings of abandonment from parents and people who are supposed to be our first loved ones. When you’ve gone through that, it’s hard to come away with images of a God who is loving. If we grow up slapped, shoved side or suffering even worse abuse, this can really make it hard for people to feel there’s anything good out there in the world.”

She forged her unique approach over many years and the true stories she shares in the book are guaranteed to inspire readers, perhaps to encourage the creation of similar programs. (For more about the growing consensus of concern about this issue and ideas for such programs, see the links below this article.)

Finally, she gives us a 22-page workbook

Perhaps the most practical asset in Welling’s new book is a 22-page “workbook” she gives us, bound right into the book itself.

Just before those workbook pages, she explains to readers why the workbook was created:

“In March 2020 the pandemic closed the jail to the public. The inmates were allowed no visitors and no journaling workshops. I can’t imagine how that multiplied the miserable march of days for the incarcerated men and women. In an effort to offer the inmates a guide toward looking inward and conducting their own inquiries, I created a workbook that simulated our time together in the journaling workshops. … The workbook consists of 15 lessons. Each lesson offers five questions and is accompanied by a few of my favorite quotes. I hope the questions and quotes provide readers with new pathways as they engage in their own journeys inward.”

In fact, that workbook can be used by anyone interested in starting to write in a journal.

In closing our interview, Welling said she hopes readers will use the workbook and recommend it to friends.

“Journaling is a powerful tool for self knowledge and self awareness,” she said. “Ask yourself questions and just write. You’re going to discover so much more about your life and yourself. Among other things, I also hope people will write about what they feel gratitude for.

“There’s so much power in writing by hand on paper. That process incorporates your body, mind and spirit and emotions—as you try to pin down all of that with language. When we do this, we learn more about ourselves than we knew before we started writing.”

.

.

Care to read more?

Wikipedia has a lengthy overview of America’s history of incarceration. Links from that article go into far more depth on many related issues. There’s also a comparison chart of incarceration rates around the world.

Wondering about that opening quote with this article? Adam Gopnik’s landmark report appeared in The New Yorker, headlined: The Caging of America? Why do we lock up so many people?

A landmark document: One of the most frequently cited critiques of America’s mass incarceration is this report for Human Rights Watch in 2006 by Jamie Fellner.

Major newspapers, including The New York Times, have been regularly reporting on the problem of mass incarceration. Here are just a few of the many Times articles worth reading on this issue:

And more on the role of religion

There’s a powerful encouragement of visiting prisoners in both Catholic and Protestant traditions, which also means there are well-established organizations within major mainline denominations to help people organize new outreach programs into prisons. You don’t have to invent a program by trial and error.

You can reach out to others for guidance. In fact, reading Welling’s book provides lots of ideas. For example, toward the end of her book, she describes the volunteer work of her friend Ben who figured out a number of very practical ways he could help prisoners make a healthy transition after incarceration.

Millions of Americans have heard this appeal to help. The Catholic church teaches that visiting the imprisoned is an important work of mercy. Pope John Paul II wrote extensively about the unique, priceless value of each human soul, including prisoners. Pope Francis has followed that example.

At the root of Protestant prison ministries is John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who began visiting prisoners while he still was a student and encouraged his friends to do the same. Among the services these early Methodists offered to prisoners were “teaching them to read, paying their debts, and attempting to find employment for them,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica biography of Wesley. Throughout his life, Wesley continued to pay regular visits to prisons and encouraged all Methodists to organize similar prison outreach programs.

Nearly every mainline denomination offers a national program of training in prison chaplaincy. Beyond those formal programs, there are hundreds of grassroots outreach programs as well. For example, here is one of many United Methodist resources on prison ministry—a list that includes a group that makes recordings of incarcerated Moms reading books for their children.

And here is the gateway to Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition. Plus, here’s a more direct link to that organization’s Resources section.

Benjamin Pratt: Remembrance of things past through a pilgrimage with old friends

With two of my fraternity brothers: Jim on the left and Bob on the right.

.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The great memoirist Marcel Proust described the mysterious power of human memory as if past souls were waiting for us almost everywhere, hoping we might pass by and stir them to new life. That might happen during a walk in the woods, Proust said, or by revisiting earlier elements of our lives, perhaps as simple as a cup of hot tea and little piece of cake. Such a little taste, one day, is what unlocked Proust’s more-than-4,000-page memoir, Remembrance of Things Past. This week, our online magazine is sharing a Cover Story with Tina Welling, who has developed life-changing “journaling” workshops with inmates. And we are sharing Howard Brown’s story of honoring a friend who died last year by planting trees. The third part of this triptych of memory is Benjamin Pratt’s story about a pilgrimage with friends back to the campus where they met.

.

A Reunion: Memories, Bitter and Sweet

.

By BENJAMIN PRATT

“That’s our ol’ ‘necking’ tree—right there in the shade of the chapel. We kissed for the first time while I was holding her close and leaning against that tree. Wow, 62 years ago—no wonder the tree is much bigger than I remembered. I still keep pinching myself when I realize how fortunate I am to have found Judith and been married for 59 years. Amazing, really amazing.”

This is where I serenaded my wife-to-be after we became “pinned.” Judith stood at the windows above the door, backed by her sorority as I was backed by my fraternity brothers.

I mumbled this to my friends at our college reunion.

Recently, we made a collective pilgrimage deep into our memories, a journey that turned out to be revelatory, tender, tough and filled with gratitude. I returned to my college with two of my closest friends who also had graduated 60 years ago. Bob drove to northern Virginia from Connecticut. Then, the three of us drove to western Pennsylvania. Bob, Jim and I were suite mates one college year. Then, I became a Resident Advisor, living with freshmen in their dorm, and that separated our threesome.

Jim and I revisited the spot where we had met 64 years ago. Our parents had just dropped us off: two disconnected, lonely, uncertain guys who were entering a new and very unfamiliar world. I had seen him standing alone, looking quite forlorn, so I walked over and said hello! We both remembered the exact spot on that huge quad. Now, here we are again, and still friends. A very sweet memory.

We all had joined one of the local fraternities, and now it was observing its 100th anniversary. We octogenarians found our time together to be delightful, eye-opening and tinged with some sad realities. I was jolted to realize how quickly I remembered names but could not conjure up that person because of facial and body changes. In addition to learning of friends’ deaths, we heard that the one man who had been keeping all of us connected had recently been sidelined by a stroke. Harry had eagerly looked forward to this reunion, only to be prevented from attending by his debilitating health. The ravages of time were visible in our bodies and faces. Yet this was not so with the ol’ campus. Some buildings were gone, replaced by attractive, state-of-the-art structures conducive to learning. It looked wonderful!

I played four years of college basketball. The stadium looks just as I remembered it except that the floor was so highly polished I could have skated on it. That stadium brought back many memories. For some unknown reason there were no upperclassmen on the team during my first year. When Westminster College came to our court with three starters who had played while in the Marines, they had us 18-0 before we scored. Not a good night! I remembered the night I held Slippery Rock’s lead scorer to eight points by constantly blocking his fade away jump shots! That was long before I wore contacts—and my glasses were smashed into my eye. And, oh yes, the painful Christmas practices. Everyone else was on break for the season, but we were there practicing, practicing, practicing—preparing for a holiday tournament.

I am so grateful for these remembered opportunities, experiences, and adventures, especially from my college years, that were enriched by dear friends and the wonderful woman, Judith, who became my partner in life. I returned to the spot where I first met her, as well as the patio from which I serenaded her in front of her dorm. I shall never forget the first time I saw her and felt an electric shock go through my body! I knew something exceptional was happening.

So many memories of the past!

While a college student, I felt the calling to enter the ministry. My decision to commit to the ministry allowed me to borrow money from the church to be paid back by years of service. Also, during this time, I became a voracious reader—a lover of books and stories.

These memories and others help me know who I am.

.

.

Care to read more?

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Based near Washington D.C., the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Pratt is a retired pastoral counselor with 40 years of experience working with men and women facing a wide range of stresses and tragedies. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and a retired member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He writes regularly for ReadTheSpirit online magazine and also is a featured columnist at the website for the popular Day1 radio network.

His book, A Guide for Caregivers, has helped thousands of families nationwide cope with the wide array of challenges involved as more than 50 million of us serve as unpaid caregivers in the U.S. alone. In 2021, Ben will continue to write about caregiving issues for us.

His book, Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins and 007’s Moral Compass, explores some of the themes in this week’s Holy Week column, including an in-depth look at Accidie.

If you find these books helpful, and if you suggest that your small group discuss these books, we would love to hear from you about your response, ideas and questions. Or, if you are interested in ordering these books in quantity, please contact us at [email protected]

.

.

Two-time cancer survivor Howard Brown writes ‘Shining Brightly’ to encourage others to stay healthy

(EDITOR’s NOTE: Author Howard Brown and our entire publishing house team thank Beaumont Hospital for heroically saving Howard’s life in his second battle with aggressive stage IV cancer. The hospital staff graciously organized a “media day” to share Howard’s story with others—encouraging anyone who hears, sees or reads Howard’s story to schedule regular checkups and appropriate early screenings. It was just such a regular visit to see his doctor that ultimately saved Howard’s life. As a result of that “media day,” Howard’s life-saving advice is spreading far and wide. For example, southeast Michigan’s popular WDIV news team broadcast this report. This life-saving message about regular checkups also was spread by radio and other news media. The following story originally was posted on Beaumont’s website.)

.

Howard Brown, two time stage 4 cancer survivor , has written a memoir that includes his treatment for colon cancer at RO Beaumont. Click on this photo to visit the book’s Amazon page and get your copy now.

.

By BEAUMONT HOSPITAL STAFF

Imagine handwriting your will on a legal pad. You have $10,000 to your name that you want to go to your twin sister, and you want your baseball card collection to go to your younger cousin.

After learning he had cancer for the first time, that was reality for then 23-year-old Howard Brown.

The first cancer diagnosis

In 1989, Brown was fresh out of college and working a software sales job.

A self-proclaimed workaholic, he ignored a purple bump on his left cheek until it got so bad his dad took a ‘wrong turn,’ bringing him to the emergency room at a local community hospital in the Boston suburbs.

In October of 1989, Brown was told he had a very serious and aggressive form of stage IV non-Hodgkin’s T-cell lymphoma.

“I initially didn’t fully grasp the gravity of it all,” Brown said. “I remember thinking, ‘Does this mean I can’t go to New York for my next sales call?’”

Brown didn’t think he’d make it to his 24th birthday. But with the help of a bone marrow transplant from his twin sister in May 1990, along with aggressive chemotherapy, total body irradiation and a clinical trial, he pulled through.

“I only survived through the heroic efforts of my doctors, nurses, family and friends — and, of course, my own iron-willed determination to survive,” Brown said.

One of Howard Brown’s Beaumont doctors is Dr. Harry Wasvary MD

A routine colonoscopy shows cancer is back

Decades later, in June of 2016, Brown–by then a husband and father living in Michigan – got a routine colonoscopy at the then-recommended age of 50. The screening age for colonoscopy has since been lowered to 45.

Doctors told Brown he had stage III colon cancer, and, once again, his world was turned upside down.

Within two weeks of his colonoscopy, Brown was at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, where colorectal surgeon Dr. Harry Wasvary surgically removed 13.5 inches of Brown’s colon, plus margins and lymph nodes.

From there, it was time to battle cancer again with aggressive chemotherapy.

“Battling cancer is a team sport and I wanted an oncology team who would work with me, talk with me, answer questions and openly discuss my options,” Brown said. “That’s why I chose Dr. Richard Zekman, a top cancer oncologist-hematologist, at Beaumont.”

From there, Brown had chemo infusions, 10.5 more inches of his colon removed and opted to participate in a clinical trial.

By the following year, the disease progressed to stage IV metastatic colon cancer that was growing and spreading aggressively.

“Without any treatment, doctors told me I had three to six months to live,” he said.

Howard Brown’s memoir includes a chapter about his treatment for colon cancer at Royal Oak Beaumont. One of his doctors is Dr. Richard Zekman DO.

The Hail Mary

Brown said he then began chemotherapy again. A CT in late September 2017 showed a slight regression of the metastases, which gave Brown and his family some hope.

Then Brown chose to do cytoreductive surgery (CRS) plus heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). During the procedure, visible tumors are surgically removed from the abdominal cavity. Then, heated chemotherapy drugs are applied directly into the abdomen in hopes of eliminating the remaining cancer cells.

“I interviewed five renowned surgeons from around the world, and selected Beaumont’s Dr. Vandad Raofi,” Brown said. “I chose him because he had performed thousands of successful surgeries related to the abdomen. I also trusted Beaumont Hospital and appreciated that it was five miles from my home. I knew that family support would be vital.”

On March 13, 2018, Dr. Raofi and his team performed a successful 13.5-hour surgery to rid the cancer from inside Brown’s abdomen.

“It was the single most painful journey of my life,” Brown said. “I lived on protein shakes and pain killers for two months. But it worked. I’m blessed and grateful to still here.”

His message

Flash forward to today: Brown has had nine consecutive No Evidence of Disease (NED) reports. On September 27, 2022, he released his memoir, “Shining Brightly.”

In his book, Brown asks readers to stop reading, mark their place and go check the calendar for the date of their next physical exam. If they don’t have one, he encourages them to make one and get in the habit of scheduling a physical each year. Brown stresses self-care is vital and must be taken seriously.

“If you act on any of the advice in my book, it should be this: Get yourself screened for colorectal cancer, because it is one of the most preventable of all cancers if caught early,” Brown said. “While everyone complains about the uncomfortable fasting-and-cleansing process 24 hours before the scope, this is a medical procedure that can save your life. One day of discomfort is a small price to pay.”

Brown said he is proof that miracles do happen.

“Yes, he’s suffered a lot and there have been some painful setbacks, but he wears it all like a badge of honor — like it’s somehow a privilege to survive it all because he now can understand what other people are going through,” Dr. Zekman said. “Whatever he’s experienced, he turns it around and wants to teach others about how to navigate those problems.”