Craig LeMasters and futurist Rita J. King talk about ‘Unstuck: How to Unlock and Activate the Wisdom of Others’

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

This ReadTheSpirit Cover Story is a video story—in fact, two videos!

Both are introductions to the newly released book,
Unstuck: How to Unlock and Activate the Wisdom of Others, which is available now from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Walmart.com and other online retailers.

THE FIRST VIDEO, below, is a less-than-2-minute introduction to the work of international business coach Craig Lemasters whose team takes a rapid-cycle approach to helping leaders get unstuck—mainly by connecting them with wise men and women outside their current circle. Then, Craig and his team at Atlanta-based GXG coordinate these catalytic encounters to ensure that these new outside sources of wisdom unlock and activate growth within the company that originally was stuck.

Susan Stitt created this very brief introductory video. She is the marketing director of our Front Edge Publishing house and is a strong advocate of video marketing, as she explained in this earlier column about the importance of book videos.

THE SECOND VIDEO, below, introduces Craig Lemasters himself in a 27-minute interview with futurist Rita J. King at Science House in New York City. Years ago, Craig was a client of this national center for innovation, which specializes in working with Fortune 100 companies. Now, Rita has written the foreword to Craig’s book and she also hosts this YouTube interview that serves as an online virtual book launch for Unstuck.

Video 1: Is Your Company Stuck?

Here is Susan’s video that conveys the valuable core message of this book in 1 minute and 41 seconds:

Video 2: Unstuck Launch Day

Here is Rita J. King’s interview with Craig about the importance of helping leaders break free of the barriers that are preventing them from adapting and growing. NOTE: The interview begins 45 seconds into this 27-minute video:

HAVING TROUBLE VIEWING THESE VIDEOS ON THIS PAGE?

You also can go directly to YouTube to view these videos.

Video 1: Is Your Company Stuck?

Video 2: Unstuck Launch Day.

 

From Michael T. McRay: ‘The stories that might help save us’

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Letters to America

EDITOR’s NOTE: The fourth letter in our series this week is a text from the opening pages of Michael T. McRay’s remarkable and inspiring new book, I Am Not Your Enemy. While reading Michael’s book—then interviewing him about the global story-collecting project behind this book—it became obvious that there were many parallels between Michael’s work and our own 10 Principles that we posted online in 2007, when our publishing house was founded. So, we are sharing this “letter” from Michael (from his book’s Introduction) as an invitation for our readers to learn more about Michael’s important and innovative work. You can do that right now by visiting his website and by ordering a copy of his book.

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

By MICHAEL T. McRAY
Author of ‘I Am Not Your Enemy

I believe that some of the highest goals of storytelling, of crafting narratives about our lives, should be cultivating empathy and telling the truth in service of reconciling relationships.

Stories are powerful, muscular devices. Storytelling can transform us, whether toward better or worse versions of ourselves. The stories we tell and the ones we listen to change us all the time, in large and little ways, and we’d do well to consider carefully which stories win our attention.

We are wise to consider carefully how we might learn to live together well with those we find difficult. It’s no great feat to enjoy living next to people you enjoy. That doesn’t make for peace. What makes for peace is the capacity to live with difference in such a way that bears fruit rather than arms. Difference and disagreement are guaranteed for human relationships. More often than not, it’s how we deal with difference, rather than being different, that determines our potential to be peaceable.

There’s an old Irish saying: Ar scath a cheile a mhaireas na daoine. Irish poet and theologian Padraig O Tuama says one could translate it as “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Another way is: “It is in the shadow of each other that the people live.” There’s wisdom in those twists, not the least of which being that they tell us we can choose how we live together. Will we give shelter and welcome to each other, or will we let our shadows blot each other out? The stories we tell are part of how we make that choice.

The stories we tell either help us or harm us. No narrative is neutral. The ones that help are usually ones that tell bold truths about our world, even painful ones, because we always need to face the truth with courage if we’re to heal and grow. The ones that hurt are usually ones that distort truths—maybe to protect power, or dehumanize, or tempt us to weaponize our fear. We humans tend to do our worst when we’re afraid. Fear leads to hatred and hatred leads to violence and violence leads to fear, which leads to hatred, which leads to violence. If we don’t address this deadly cycle, it can loop forever.

The stories that might save us from this are stories that open us toward a fuller embrace of the world. These stories must, therefore, tell the truth. And part of the truth is that the world is full of violence, bereavements and terrors that will terrorize even our dreams.

And yet the agony of the world isn’t the truth of the world; it’s only part of the truth. Another part of he truth is that the world is full of beauty, friendship and healing. The earth is populated with powerful stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, of inconceivable reconciliation, of faith and hope and love. Yet for some reason, we seem uninterested in these stories or are unwilling or unable to give them a platform. It seems that horror sells better than hope.

We have to do better. The stories we tell inform the breadth of our imaginations. Stories can help foster creative and prophetic imagination; they help us find order and meaning within chaos, help us get our bearings when we feel lost. And stories can also foster bigotry, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness when told without wisdom.

Wise stories, however, are those that know that sometimes someone else might tell it differently. Wise stories know there is never one villain and never one hero. Wise stories know that sometimes, maybe even most times, people can be both. Wise stories know that if you describe characters as demonic, listeners will likely long for their destruction rather than redemption. Wise stories know that the wisest stories are not told by people in power.

Wise stories are ones that help us face the truth around us and name it for what it is. Throughout Padraig O Tuama’s book, In the Shelter, he offers the simple tool of naming the truths around us and saying hello to them. Rather than pushing them away or pretending they aren’t there or have no power, he encourages us to acknowledge them. Greet them. Say hello. See what we might learn from the situations and the strangers we did not choose—or at least did not know to name. I use this all the time now in my life as a way of acknowledging often unacknowledged truths, as a way of becoming familiar and maybe even friendly with what can be frightening.

Because sometimes, simply saying hello might be part of what helps us.

This brief excerpt is from Michael’s much longer, prophetic Introduction to his new book. The entire Introduction reads like an open letter to all of us to recognize the peacebuilding potential in sharing wise and true stories.

 

How can we remember what we share as Americans? Meet 2 spiritual guides inviting us on a pilgrimage.

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Discovering the Sacred in Our Heartland—

GREAT FOR INDIVIDUAL READING, FAMILIES AND SMALL GROUPS

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By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit Magazine

What’s the last thing most of our families are thinking about this fall?

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page. The book also is available via Barnes & Noble and many other retailers.

Taking a road trip.

But, that’s exactly what two spiritual guides are inviting us to undertake in a pair of unique, beautifully illustrated volumes that—we promise you—will be a welcome addition to your reading list this autumn and winter. That’s true even if your spiritual “road trip,” for now, is only the start of a plan for yourself as an individual or with your family, friends or congregation.

Now is the time to open our horizons, once again, as we think about what defines—and unifies—this vast and diverse nation of ours.

Co-authors Brad Lyons and Bruce Barkhauer hasten to add that our National Parks (and monuments and historic landmarks and other park service sites) are open right now to visitors. Of course, some indoor or enclosed areas within these sites may be closed or access may be limited due to safety concerns during the pandemic. But, the sites themselves are open. You can leave your home whenever you feel so moved and wind up standing on these sacred grounds to renew your spirit.

“If you want to know about the current rules, all you’ve got to remember is the website NPS.gov and you’ve got access to the latest information about any of the locations,” said Lyons, who also is president and publisher of Chalice Press, which produced these books. “Wherever you live, there is a national park site not too far away.”

In fact, there are 421 sites in the National Park System with more added to the roster each year. The highest designation, “national park,” is held by 62 of the facilities, since the White Sands Monument became the official White Sands National Park on December 20, 2019. (NOTE: That was after press time for the first 61-site volume in this series, so Lyons and co-author Bruce Barkhauer are adding reflections on “Bonus Parks” to their website for the book series.)

Among the many new and upcoming sites within the system: The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial was recognized by the park service on September 18, 2020. The Civil War Mill Springs Battlefield was moved up to the status of a national monument on September 22, 2020. On the list of new sites in the planning process is the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument, which is authorized by the park service but still is in the process of acquisition and development of the facility.

How many park designations are there? Across the entire system, there are 19 different naming designations.

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Ready to Open Your Spiritual Horizons?

The two books are: America’s Holy Ground: 61 Faithful Reflections on Our National Parks—and America’s Sacred Sites: 50 Faithful Reflections on Our National Monuments and Historic Landmarks.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page. The book also is available via Barnes & Noble and many other retailers.

Barkhauer and Lyons have been involved in the production of Christian books and resources for many years. Lyons supervises the entire Chalice Press publishing house, which is part of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ. A few years ago for Chalice, Barkhauer wrote: Community of Prayer—Stewardship Devotional.

So, after years of working on more traditional publishing projects, why did they launch such an unusual series?

“Because we realize that people have a desire to find something other than the typical religious books that were produced in the past,” Barkhauer said in our interview this week. “There is a hunger for something deeper among people who have experienced so much turbulence in these tumultuous times. People are finding that what they thought was anchoring them—now is shaking. People are asking: Where can I take my questions to look for deeper answers?

“When we started working on what is now the first volume, we thought of this as a closed set: There were 60 parks. We would cover all of them in one book. Then, as we were working on that book, there were 61. And, now, there are 62, so we’re adding a reflection on that 62nd site to our website.

“Then, when we decided to do a second volume, we realized we could respond to the geographic holes in our first book. The 62 national parks are not evenly distributed across every state. California and Utah have a lot. Not every state has one. But—when we knew we could plan the second volume, this gave us an opportunity to fill in some of the geographic gaps. There is a national park unit of some kind in every state. So, that’s why we did 50 in the second book—one per state.”

The Power of a Daily Spiritual Journey

Most of these entries are four pages long, each one illustrated with about four color photos—so they are ideal for daily reading. Millions of us try to follow some kind of spiritual practice, often including a daily, uplifting reading of some kind.

That is why we have launched our own 30 Days With series of inspirational books with the first two volumes drawing from the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln and King David. More volumes will appear in 2021. What we are aiming at is a timeless desire for readings that can enlarge our spiritual imagination. Since ancient times, men and women have found solace and hope in daily prayers and reflections. Pew Research says 55 percent of Americans continue to do so on a daily basis.

One way to enjoy these new books from Chalice is to think of them as “111 Days With Our National Parks,” spread across two volumes. That’s enough reading for more than three months. Lyons and Barkhauer understand how much we all can benefit from recalling on a daily basis what spiritually unites us in these turbulent times.

That’s why they close each entry with a few questions for reflection. Just one example: At the end of a chapter that involves Native American food traditions—they raise a common Native American concern for future generations. The questions at the end of that entry are:

“Can you think of small actions that have blossomed into something much larger? From whose seeds have you harvested fruit? What seeds are you planting for future generations?”

‘Something out of the Ordinary Happened There’

In the opening pages of their newest book, Lyons and Barkhauer remind readers that this intertwined process of remembrance and spiritual reflection stretches back to the roots of our Abrahamic faiths. They write:

“Consider the stories in the biblical witness where a place is marked as special or sacred. In Genesis 12, when Abram enters Canaan—God having told him in a dream that he and his descendants will one day inhabit this land—Abram sets up a pile of stones, an altar, at the oak of Moreh. The place is to be remembered because something out of the ordinary happened there. In this case, it was the first concrete step of Abram living into the vision of what would become the biblical nation of Israel. Marking the place allows the history to live on beyond the individual or generation that experienced the event. …

“What is most remarkable to us today is that there is a place in every state of our union that has some significance in shaping us and our history. Consequently, there is a place near you right now where a visit can get you started on discovering more of America’s holy ground. We wish you blessings and safe as well as amazing journeys as we remember that our memories of the past, well tended, not only define who we are now, but can shape us into something even greater in our shared future.”

And, the best part of these co-authors’ collaborative style? They keep guiding us; they show us one remarkable site after another; they evoke the spirit of each place; they raise probing questions—but they don’t force answers on us. Each reader can draw unique insights.

“Every one of these reflections is open to your own interpretation,” Lyons said. “And, that’s appropriate to this kind of journey—and to these places. If any two of us visit Yosemite—even if we are good friends and visit together—we will have two different experiences. That’s why we never say in these books: This is the experience you’re going to have. We don’t want to limit anyone. We are offering invitations. We are asking questions. Your own experience, then, will take over. And, that’s as it should be.”

Duncan Newcomer’s Abraham Lincoln Quiet Fire 26—Choosing Humility over Humiliation

This entry is part 25 of 28 in the series Duncan Newcomer's Quiet Fire

TWO HISTORICAL MILESTONES IN A SINGLE IMAGE: Frederick Douglass met Lincoln face to face three times. This famous painting depicts his first appeal to Lincoln in 1862 to combat discrimination in the Union army against black soldiers. The main effort to recruit black regiments began only after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in January 1863. No photographs were taken during that meeting. This 1943 painting of the encounter is a milestone for two reasons. First, it broke new ground because it was an official U.S. government commission painted for public display by an African-American artist, William Edouard Scott. Second, it depicted Douglass in a clearly dominant position as he argued the case of black troops with a seated and weary Lincoln.

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By DUNCAN NEWCOMER
Host of the ‘Quiet Fire’ series

This is Quiet Fire, a reflection on the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln and its relevance to us today. Welcome.

Nestled into many Lincoln literary collections, there is a large red book, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time, published in 1885 by Allen Thorndike Rice, editor of the famous North American Review. My copy of Rice’s classic is in the autumn-leaves season of its life.

Included in these pages are the memories of 33 men, none more interesting than that of Frederick Douglass, interesting and representative of Lincoln’s silent empathy as he greeted him into his office.

Douglass, the famous Black abolitionist and feminist was an awe-inspiring man in his own right. After his encounter with Lincoln, he wrote, “I was somewhat troubled with the thought of meeting one so august and high in authority….but my embarrassment soon vanished when I met the face of Mr. Lincoln. When I entered he was seated in a low chair, surrounded by a multitude of books and papers, his feet and legs were extended in front of his chair. On my approach he slowly drew his feet in from the different parts of the room into which they had strayed, and he began to rise, and continued to rise until he looked down upon me, and extended his hand and gave me a welcome…. ‘You need not tell me who you are Mr. Douglass, I know who you are. Mr. Sewell has told me all about you.’ He then invited me to take a seat beside him.”

After Douglass presented his four points, which had to do with the recruitment, the pay, the safety and the honor of what they both called “the colored troops,” Douglass writes, “To this little speech Mr. Lincoln listened with earnest attention and with a very apparent sympathy….”

Again and again, Lincoln’s earnest and silent opening attention is what these men record. It puts them at ease, it honors their mission, and it enhances their dignity.

This book collects memories of famous men like U.S. Grant and Henry Ward Beecher, and less famous men like Schuyler Colfax and Elihu Washburn, who tell the of same welcoming encounter.

It is easy to see Lincoln unscrambling his long legs, striding toward the guest, his huge hand extended, his voice rising in greeting, and then his quiet attentive listening. Lincoln begins these meeting again and again with silence.

The hallmark of such a greeting is spiritual. The moment begins dwelling in silence, and it is physical. It is embodied. It communicates dignity and respect.

This is not the politics of humiliation, as recently critiqued in a New York Times editorial by Thomas L. Friedman on September 8, 2020.

This is the politics of humility.

It is both smart and good on Lincoln’s part. Smart because, as he once said, if you are to convince a man of your opinion you must first persuade him that you are his sincere friend. It is good because it places the esteem, the sense of the self-worth of the visitor, at the center of the conversation.

Lincoln loved to meet people. Quite simply, love was in his heart. One day while he was a young boy, he ran up to the split-rail fence to greet a visitor who had just ridden up. Lincoln began talking excitedly with the man. His father, Thomas Lincoln, struck his son down with his hand. Lincoln’s offense had been to speak first, before his father. However, as young Lincoln’s life unfolded, he preserved his natural affinity for people.

One of Lincoln’s favorite books was John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. In that book, a sinful character is appropriately named Talkative. Lincoln must have liked that sinner, because he certainly knew how to be talkative. But Lincoln also had a humble spirit, and he knew how to respect others.

It is really hard to humiliate someone who is humble. They just don’t go down.

Now Lincoln himself was the object and target of political satire and even craven contempt. What we don’t ever see in Lincoln is pay-back. He once said, “What I have to deal with is too vast for malice.”

So he holds a penetrating and deep silence when he meets a fellow human being. He expands his heart and furthers his mind reaching for human value, knowledge, and things too vast for malice.

Contempt, the inner looking down on someone, is a secular human behavior that all religions and spiritual practices counter. Loving your neighbor as yourself is a universal law of spiritual life. And it is very hard to come by.

George Washington, while desperately trying to defend the city of New York against the invading British fleet, was given needed reinforcements from New England, especially a group from Vermont called the Green Mountain Boys.

Washington was a Virginia gentleman, the wealthiest man in the state. He was well-practiced in proper rank and file behavior, in proper uniforms, and speech and discipline. When, earlier, he was in the British Colonial army he himself was openly humiliated by the English as a rube Colonial. He had a lot of pride and so quit out of a sense of his own honor.

But when he encountered the New England mountain boys as his new recruits he was nothing but disgusted with the rowdy Vermonters. He wrote home of his utter contempt for them. A spirit of humility is hard-earned.
A few generations later these tables turn in a story of the New York governor and future presidential candidate William Seward. He and his wife decided to tour the South in the years before the war.

The Sewards were contemptuous of the whole southern way of life. Not only were they disgusted with slavery, but they were revolted by the pomposities of plantation manners, the lack of general education, the run-down life among the poor black and white. They could hardly imagine a country in which people so different from themselves could be equal citizens. Contempt is easy to come by.

Humiliating and then re-humiliating The Other may be the single most dangerous secular political practice, one that calls for spiritual humility such as Lincoln’s.

How did Lincoln come to be this way? The element of silence was immense in the making of Lincoln. We will not understand his spiritual life of Lincoln if we don’t begin there. It is cosmos not history that is our frame of reference. This is an unusual perspective, but spiritual knowledge emerges from the same formless void that opens the book of Genesis. Born into that world, Lincoln’s inner life began.

Lincoln then held onto that silence throughout his life. In reminiscence after reminiscence, as we have seen in that big red leather book, those who knew him personally remark how he began their meeting with an extended silent listening.

Silence was not a technique with him, it was his spiritual practice.

This is Duncan Newcomer, and this has been Quiet Fire. The spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln.

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Care to Enjoy More Lincoln Right Now?

GET A COPY of Duncan’s 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln—Quiet Fire.

Each of the 30 stories in this book includes a link to listen to the original radio broadcasts. The book is available from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle versions. ALSO, you can order hardcover and paperback from Barnes & Noble. In addition, our own publishing house offers these bookstore links to order hardcovers as well as paperbacks directly from our supplier.

 

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In ‘White Lies,’ Daniel Hill helps readers pull up the roots of racism in churches and communities

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit Magazine

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page. If you order now, the book will ship when it is released September 1, 2020.

Reports from across the publishing industry tell us that books exploring the roots of racism, especially by Black authors, are booming in 2020. The customers for those books include thousands of congregational leaders, clergy and active lay people, who are building up their own shelves of books for personal reflection and group discussion on this life-and-death range of issues. Now, a book by a White pastor is arriving from evangelical publisher Zondervan, called: White Lies—Nine Ways to Expose and Resist the Racial Systems That Divide Us.

If you are among the millions of Americans who have bought at least one book on race this year, the first question is clear: Why should you add this one to your shelf? The answer is: Because this is a tour de force examination of how the lies of racism are deeply entwined within predominantly White Christianity itself.

Think of the chapters of this book as Daniel Hill’s step-by-step astringent cleansing of Christian culture, pulling up the carpets and even the floorboards as he goes. He invites readers to take a courageous journey that involves knocking down one excuse and diversion after another to get at the core issue: Lies about race—and the value of whiteness over all other races—are at the core of our dominant American Christian culture.

In our interview about his new book, Hill said: “We’ve largely failed with our most original Christian mission, which is to tell truth that brings liberation and freedom and healing. John 8:32 says, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’ Instead, we’ve let the lies of race corrupt and divide us in a largely unchallenged way. In this book, I want to create common language within our churches that says: White supremacy is evil and here’s why: It’s built on a set of lies. It needs to be uprooted and defeated.”

Hill paused and added, “I know this isn’t a popular message in many communities. You can’t make these kinds of statements in many White churches right now without touching off a backlash or even an exodus from that congregation.”

If you are reading that line and thinking—Oh, not in my church!—think again.

What the Sojourners Crisis Shows Us

This month, one of the most famous progressive Protestant leaders in America, Jim Wallis, was replaced as editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine after controversy about a column that criticized Catholic leaders for not sufficiently condemning symbols and acts of racism. If you care to read more:

That series of news events is astonishing because, until now, Wallis was the very definition of a Christian crusader for justice—including in the fight against racism. Wallis will continue as a crusader, of course, but Sojourners has now wisely separated its activist arm, which Wallis will continue to lead, from its publication staff to preserve editorial independence.

What the Sojourners crisis shows us is that explosive reactions can occur when we turn over the rocky soil of our racist past, because some of the dislodged rocks uncover very disturbing secrets. What the Sojourners controversy also reveals is that uprooting racism in our Christian culture is far more complex and multi-faceted than a single magazine column could hope to reveal.

That’s why books like Daniel Hill’s White Lies are so valuable. Between these covers, Daniel has 250 pages to walk step by step across this rocky field with us and show us how each secret—and each form of avoidance—all contribute to a culture of racism. That’s why Daniel needs nine in-depth chapters to even start covering the breadth of this challenge.

Why It Is So Difficult to Dig out the Roots

Daniel Hill (Photo by Heidi Zeiger)

In the pages of Hill’s book, there is no one-two-three solution to racism that readers can print on a small sheet of paper, scrawl across a banner or display on a TV screen and say: That’s all we have to do.

“I’m trying to create common language within our faith spaces that says white supremacy is evil and here’s why,” Daniel explained in our interview. “That process takes time and touches on many different issues.”

The opening two chapters have titles that may shock readers as they first open his book: “Stop Being Woke” and “Beware of Diversity.” In that total of 40 pages, Hill deconstructs the most common diversions that people of faith raise in defensively claiming that they are not a part of the problem. Hill uses every one of those pages to explain his analysis, but in a short summary: He wants people to pause and actually think about their complicity in racism without, first, reflexively claiming they are already “woke.” Then, he zeroes in on what he describes as the all-too-convenient diversion of “diversity” in which people claim they can’t be part of a racist system because there are at least a few representatives of minority groups in their community.

If you already find yourself resisting Daniel’s arguments, at least give him a chance and read his entire 40 pages describing these two challenging issues. Daniel is a master at provoking readers to at least take a look at what he hopes to teach us.

Perhaps the strongest chapter is in the center in his book. This Chapter 5 is called “Duel with the Devil.” In seeing that chapter title, the first question many readers will have is: So this guy believes he’s fighting a real Devil!?! Anticipating that reaction, Daniel reminds us that the world’s best-selling Christian author C.S. Lewis frequently uses that language in describing the daily challenges we all face. Then, Daniel goes on to sketch the biblical basis of his argument about temptations that are rooted in lies, starting with the first chapters of Genesis. Eventually, he leaps into a 13-page whirlwind tour of American history, which includes racist evidence from such American giants as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. He carries us right to the doorstep of Donald Trump.

Remember: In this ReadTheSpirit cover story, you’re only seeing our brief description of what amounts to a jam-packed, carefully argued 30-page chapter.

‘Join in Dismantling These Structures’

The final question we asked Daniel was: “How do you hope this book will change readers? What do you hope they will do when they walk away after reading it?”

“If they are not already engaged in doing this, I hope that readers will come to see white supremacy as one of the most dangerous ideologies we have ever seen—and will become involved in uprooting it,” Daniel said. “I hope that readers will begin to see how horrible it is to see other people through the lens of these lies.

“Of course, people across all backgrounds need to join in dismantling racism, but people of faith have a particular and central role to play. We should begin by repenting of the ways we have failed to call out these lies in the past—and then we should realize that there is power in beginning to tell the truth, even if we are facing the challenge of speaking the truth to power.”

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Care to read more?

GET THE BOOKOrdering now via Amazon will ensure the book is shipped on the release date September 1, 2020, in time for autumn reflection, small groups and Sunday School classes.

GET THE STUDY GUIDE AND OTHER FREE RESOURCES FOR CONGREGATIONS—Daniel is offering a multi-faceted group of congregational resources for free—if you follow the instructions on his website, PastorDanielHill.com Once you reach his website, click on the book cover—then scroll down. Read about how to receive these free resources, which will require your providing your name, email address and a receipt number from having ordered the book.

FOLLOW VIA SOCIAL MEDIA. Daniel says he is most active on Twitter as well as Instagram. Look for @DanielHill1336

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Duncan Newcomer’s Abraham Lincoln Quiet Fire 21—Locating the spiritual X-factor in Lincoln’s ground-breaking life

This entry is part 20 of 28 in the series Duncan Newcomer's Quiet Fire

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By DUNCAN NEWCOMER
Host of the ‘Quiet Fire’ series

This is Quiet Fire, a meditation on the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln and its relevance to us today. Welcome.

If you have been following our series, then you know that the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln has been a mystery. Not because it was not there, but because most of his biographers didn’t know how to find it.

It was like a treasure buried in a field. But who had the map and where was the dark-inked “X”?

We who care about this meditation called Quiet Fire, The Spiritual Life of Abraham Lincoln are among the “almost chosen few” who share in this quest to explore Lincoln’s spiritual life—using his phrase “almost chosen” because we are not sure how we came to this quest.

The map and compass for discovering the spiritual life of Lincoln did not exist in his time. Even his most capable observer Walt Whitman said it would be a long time—a long and spacious time before Lincoln’s greatness would be, could be, seen and fully understood. Whitman himself had already identified Lincoln’s religious nature. Whitman had said he was of an amble, a deep-rooted, a lofty and superlative nature.

Care to read more? This volume of Lowell’s prose includes the essay on Lincoln.

Another poet, the modern poet Robert Lowell, helped greatly with the discovery of the map and the X when he located Lincoln’s spiritual life within the Christian tradition but not in any church’s Christianity. In an essay on Lincoln’s legacy, Lowell posed this as a question: “Is it possible that the fury of war changed Lincoln, the freethinker, into an instinctive Christian?”

Lowell described the Gettysburg Address as a Christian message that did not belong to Christianity.

That might not have been that hard to know since Lincoln himself was raised within Christianity, and was a regular worshipper in two Presbyterian Churches, each with a superlative minister. But then he never joined a Christian congregation by profession or confession of faith. He did rent a pew, however, and at least one of his sons, but not himself, was baptized.

About the time when Lincoln was becoming a Congressman from Illinois in 1848, there was a theologian, a “map maker” we could say over in Denmark who was doing just as Robert Lowell did—separating “Christian” from Christianity.

This funny looking little slip of a man, with tall hair and a crooked back, wrote scathingly about the modern official church of his native Denmark.

You’ll find a number of passages reminiscent of Lincoln’s spiritual reflections—and other essays with which Lincoln would have disagreed—in this collection of Kierkegaard’s writings.

He was as melancholy as Lincoln. He fiercely turned his pen to attacking the church as a formal fraud of the very treasures it had been given. His name was Soren Kierkegaard and he lived in the same era of religious redefinition and had much the same kind of spiritual journey. Lincoln lived from 1809-1865, Kierkegaard from 1813-1855. They never met. Lincoln was not even aware of the theologian’s writings, which were not widely translated and did not become globally popular until the early 20th century.

But—these two men shared a central passion. Kierkegaard once described his life’s work in just nine words: “to make people aware of what is essentially Christian,” an essence that he felt was conspicuously missing in organized religion. Had they met, would Lincoln have warmly agreed? Consider this often-repeated Kierkegaard quote that could have been uttered by Lincoln: “I have worked for a restlessness oriented toward inward deepening.”

Both men were aiming at the subjective individual life, not the objective life found in the state church. They were looking for a personal, intimate, inward life. That was where the spiritual truth lay buried.

The paradox of Lincoln is that he took this inward spiritual life into the middle of statecraft and national life.

And that is the map now used to find and define the spiritual life of Lincoln.

This map to the inner life is not the same as psychology because it has to do with just the spiritual, what we call the sacred, not with brains per se or the mind-body. Spiritual life is also not the same as emotions, because it has to do with truth and commitment as well as feelings. It is not the same as ethics because it has to do with a higher loyalty than even the good or the law. It has to do with the very term that Lincoln came finally to use; it has to do with the Living God. That is how Lincoln supported his judgments on the evils of slavery and the justice of God’s wrath in the Civil War, the ancient but Living God.

This was God as he had come to know him in his private meditation of the divine will, an essay he wrote for himself. He sought that through his prayer life and his Bible reading life, and through his emersion in culture, especially Shakespeare, and then in his actions through politics and war, and all the anguish and agony therein.

Of course Lincoln’s inner life came roaring out into national life. But as President he never lost the inner compass he had first used to find the X where he began digging for God.

This is Duncan Newcomer and this has been Quiet Fire, the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln.

 

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Care to Enjoy More Lincoln Right Now?

GET A COPY of Duncan’s 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln—Quiet Fire.

Each of the 30 stories in this book includes a link to listen to the original radio broadcasts. The book is available from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle versions. ALSO, you can order hardcover and paperback from Barnes & Noble. In addition, our own publishing house offers these bookstore links to order hardcovers as well as paperbacks directly from our supplier.

 

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Our authors would like to meet you and your friends to help spark healthy discussion

Three Books to Unite and Heal Communities

A RARE OPPORTUNITY TO JOIN THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION 

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

A month from now, thousands of congregations nationwide will be kicking off virtual fall seasons of programming, complete with small groups and classes. Half a year into the pandemic, congregations now are well-equipped to offer online-streaming groups, many of which enjoy talking about inspiring new books as they gather.

This week, we are highlighting three authors who willing to help you lead and inspire those groups. Larry Buxton, Lucille Sider and Ken Whitt are offering to:

  • Appear by zoom (or your preferred streaming service) before your discussion begins to provide an opening talk that can enrich your experience—and that might even draw more participants to your group to hear their helpful and hopeful messages.
  • Appear by zoom during your opening discussion to introduce the timely themes in their new books.
  • Appear by zoom toward the end of your discussion series for a Q and A “time with the author,” once you’ve already had a rich discussion of their books.
  • FINALLY, A SPECIAL NOTE TO CLERGY—Most clergy nationwide are part of small groups that meet occasionally to discuss everything from upcoming sermons to creative planning for families and Christian education. All three of these authors are willing to zoom with such planning groups as expert resources in a Q and A format—or to help spark creative planning for the new year.

BE AMONG THE FIRST IN THE NATION

Two of the three books we are highlighting today will not even be published until later this year. As a publishing house, we are issuing this rare public invitation to contact us directly to order early, pre-publication copies you can read and discuss. If you do order books from us and participate in one of these zoom options—then, you and your friends will become part of the emerging national discussion on these timely themes.

If you do choose to become one of the first-in-the-nation discussion groups, we want to hear more from you! We want to hear your ideas, insights and responses. We want to share them with others. If you choose, your voice and that of your congregation can be amplified through coverage of your experience in this online magazine. This is truly a unique opportunity to raise encouraging voices in our troubled world.

MAKING A REQUEST IS EASY

Just email us at [email protected]

LARRY BUXTON
and 30 Days with King David on Leadership

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page. However, if you want to order early copies of this book, before the mid-September publication date on Amazon, contact us directly at [email protected]

The Rev. Dr. Larry Buxton is a veteran teacher, leadership coach and long-time pastor. Larry serves on the faculty of Wesley Seminary, Washington, DC. During the fall season, Larry also will be launching a weekly, free “Leading with Spirit” video series that you, your friends and your small group will want to enjoy on a weekly basis. Your congregation can form an inspiring, ongoing relationship with this master teacher.

What’s in the book? In turbulent times, King David united a nation—and his hard-earned wisdom can bring us together today. This new 30 Days With book offers a month of readings. PLUS: A convenient discussion guide for small groups is included in the book.

Buxton’s book is a call for all of us to remember values that unite us. Answering that call in the opening pages are two nationally known political leaders—one a Democrat and one a Republican, who came together in these pages to urge all of us to read these 30 short stories drawn from David’s often tragically learned lessons about life.

An internationally known Bible scholar on the story of David, Wesley Dean Emeritus Dr. Bruce Birch, encourages congregations to enjoy and learn from Buxton’s book. Why? Because this triumphant-and-troubled hero from the Bible still can bring people together.

Is your community interested in interfaith dialogue this year? As a sacred figure, David is revered to this day by Jews, Christians and Muslims around the world.

CARE TO LEARN MORE?

Watch the video trailer for this book, which lists the core values covered in this new book about David. You can easily share that short video with your friends to spark interest. You’ll find that video in our Front Edge Publishing column about Larry’s book. Or, you can easily grab a shareable link to the video from YouTube itself.

Read—and share with othersthe Foreword to this book by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a prominent Democrat.

Read—and share with othersthe Preface to this book by Andrew Card, a prominent Republican. Together, these two opening letters to readers—included in the book—demonstrate why David can bring people together across the deep divisions that seem to be polarizing Americans right now.

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LUCILLE SIDER
and Light Shines in the Darkness

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page. However, if you want to place a group order, feel free to contact us directly at [email protected]

The Rev. Lucille Sider is a clinical psychologist and a clergy-person who earned both a master of arts in religion from Yale Divinity School and a master of science from the University of Kentucky. She was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Northwestern University in the fields of psychology and religion. Lucille was licensed as a clinical psychologist and became a Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. She is an ordained minister by the First Congregational Church, Evanston, Illinois.

Lucille is a master storyteller, teacher and workshop leader. She courageously shares her own experiences in coping with sexual abuse and mental illness in her family. Then—just as she does in the pages of her helpful new book—Lucille is able to step back as an expert counselor and talk about ways families can protect the vulnerable and the ways adults who are still suffering the trauma of long-ago abuse can seek help.

Why is Lucille’s book so important in the midst of this pandemic? Because headline news reports throughout the summer say that abuse has risen during COVID-19. One example is an NBC News analysis of data from 43 states as well as the advice of experts in coping with abuse. NBC concludes that experts are alarmed by what seems to be shaping up as “an unseen surge in abuse behind closed doors due to COVID-19 related unemployment and financial strain.” Lucille’s message is that unseen trauma can fester for many decades in families, if we do not intervene and seek help.

Does this sound like a disturbing topic to raise in your congregation? On the contrary, this often turns out to be a warmly welcomed healing opportunity. You may be surprised, if you get a copy of Lucille’s honest-and-uplifting book and read it—then, invite men and women in your community to a group discussion of these issues. Millions of adults—including older adults—still struggle with the trauma of sometimes long-ago abuse. Some of those survivors are living in your community and may welcome a chance to find fresh insights and support.

Because Lucille’s book debuted before the other two books featured in this article, she already has experience with small groups where participants have been moved both by her story—and the constructive and compassionate wisdom she shares.

PLUS: A convenient discussion guide for small groups is included in the book.

CARE TO LEARN MORE?

Read our story about the launch of Lucille’s book.

Read this column by Lucille about some of the early group appearances she made before the COVID-19 shutdowns.

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KEN WHITT
and God Is Just Love

For information on the availability of this book, email us [email protected]

The Rev. Ken Whitt’s book is not yet listed in Amazon for pre-sale, but will appear in the most popular online bookstores this autumn. Meanwhile, readers will be able to order books and receive them even before the official Amazon launch date. So, if you are interested in a visit from Ken, email us at [email protected] and we will let you know what’s available based on your schedule and the production timeline.

Ken is the Executive Director of Traces of God, a spiritual formation ministry founded after his retirement from 40 years of service to American Baptist Churches (ABC/USA). Ken’s ministries have focused on nurturing children, youth and families, mission trips, prayer and justice building. Through the ABC, he served on the General Board, the Board of International Ministries and the National Minister’s Council. His love of global diversity extends throughout his entire life from the communities with which he works—to the global variety of woods that fill his woodworking shop. Ken has four children and 11 grandchildren. His wife, Kathy, is a stained-glass artist, weaver, gardener and spiritual director.

What’s in the book? Ken’s full title is, God Is Just Love—Building Spiritual Resilience and Sustainable Communities for the Sake of Our Children and Creation. He likes to describe it as “a big book.” Here’s what he means: This book is big on hope—and even bigger on love that supports everyone who is concerned about the future world our children will inherit. Because of the big challenges we all face—from climate change to ever-deepening poverty in many regions of the world—we need to share big ideas and make big decisions. Ken invites his readers on a journey toward solutions where God’s guidance is our compass.

Because Ken has years of experience working with multi-generational groups, his book has lots of great ideas for adults to participate with children through stories, songs, art projects and especially stepping out into nature. The cover of his book illustrates a central story he shares of families looking up at the starry night sky with their children.

PLUS: His book closes with a list you’ll definitely want to share with your congregation of 100 Things You Can Do with Your Family right now.

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