Celebrating USA Today Woman of the Year honor with Najah Bazzy as Ramadan begins in 2023

As Ramadan begins in 2023, our publishing house team is celebrating with Muslim author Najah Bazzy, who has been named one of USA Today’s Women of the Year.

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

This was especially timely because the news came as Ramadan is beginning for the world’s 2-billion Muslims—and one of Najah Bazzy’s many global humanitarian efforts is her book, The Beauty of Ramadan.

What is the book about?

During the fasting month of Ramadan, Muslims revitalize their faith, celebrating the holy Quran and renewing their commitment to helping needy people around the world. As an internationally known transcultural nurse, Najah wrote this book as a simple guide to these sacred traditions, written for Muslims and non-Muslims as well. The book is useful for those working to promote diversity, for community leaders who want to understand this month-long season among their Muslim neighbors and also for health-care professionals like Najah who want to understand both the traditions and the compassionate flexibility of this worldwide practice.

Why was Najah Bazzy honored by USA Today?

Michigan-based journalist Austin Metz wrote the short biographical sketch of Najah for USA Today that explains why she is ranked among the 2023 Women of the Year.

To introduce his interview with Najah, Austin wrote:

While many recognize Najah Bazzy for her roles as a humanitarian and interfaith leader, there’s so much more to her than that. Born in southeast Michigan, Bazzy’s career began after she earned her nursing degree from Madonna University. From there, she spent over three decades working in critical care and transcultural nursing, drawing from her personal experiences as a child to help those in need.

Bazzy has served as CEO of Diversity Specialists and an adjunct professor at Michigan State University’s Institute of International Health and also co-founded the Young Muslim Association, where she still serves as a senior adviser for the organization. She is widely regarded as a leader in Muslim healthcare and ethics and has drawn from her personal experiences to provide diversity and transcultural trainings to the United States Army, the United States Department of Justice, the International Red Cross and more.

Bazzy also founded and serves as CEO of Zaman International, a needs-based organization that helps households meet their basic needs, breaking the cycle of poverty by providing food, clothing, shelter and more to women, children, seniors and the terminally ill.

Read the Entire Interview with Najah

To read Austin’s Q and A with Najah, click here. Among the questions he asks:

  • Is there a person in your life who has paved the way for you?
  • From a business or career perspective, is there someone you’ve tried to pattern your life after?
  • What sort of adversity have you overcome?
  • What is your definition of courage?

Care to see more?

Visit our Front Edge Publishing website to see a 3-minute video about Najah’s work, which is streaming courtesy of WXYZ-TV Channel 7, the ABC affiliate in southeast Michigan.

In ‘The Book of Nature,’ Barbara Mahany bedazzles us with the spiritual wonders in our own back yards

Photograph courtesy of John Hile.

Exploring ‘God of a thousand voices, a thousand lights and gazillions of colors’

Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

Toward the end of The Wizard of Oz, the good witch Glinda is preparing to send Dorothy back to Kansas and asks Dorothy what she has learned through all of her tumultuous adventures. Dorothy hems and haws a bit as she answers, then she realizes that her experiences in the Technicolor land of Oz have jolted her into an entirely new appreciation of what she once thought of as the boring black-and-white land of rural Kansas. Finally, Dorothy tells Glinda:

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with. 

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

Dorothy Gale never actually appears among the more than 100 famous folks quoted in Barbara Mahany’s new The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God’s First Sacred Text. But I am crediting Dorothy in this overview of Barbara’s new book as having prophetically captured the spiritual impulse behind this remarkable collection of meditations.

Barbara’s latest book is truly “remarkable,” because her aim is nothing short of “bedazzlement”—trying to summon all of our senses to a fresh appreciation of, quite literally, the natural world in our own back yards from gardens, trees and birds to wind, snow, dawn, dusk and the stars at night.

Down through the millennia, she explains, great writers and spiritual sages have “read” this “book of nature” as a revelatory gift from God. She writes:

Mine is the God of sunrise and nightfall, the breath behind birdsong and breeze in the oaks. Mine is the God of a thousand voices, a thousand lights, and gazillions of colors. Whether I notice or not, mine is the God who never hits pause when it comes to creation: inventing, reinventing, tweaking, editing, starting from scratch all over again, day after day after heavenly day.

Stepping into a Giant Prayer Book

“This has been true throughout my life,” Barbara said in our interview this week. For example, “There have been times when my heart is just aching and I’ll stand along the shore of Lake Michigan and I will look up into the vast, vast sky and wonder that it might be enough to hold all of the tears inside me. There are times when I might come upon an injured bird and there’s this vulnerability we share in that moment. There are so many experiences in nature that have been part of my life.

“Then, I realized that there was a long tradition behind this theological idea that nature—and all of creation—is literally a book in which God plays, opening pages for us,” she continued. “And that became the idea behind this book: As we encounter nature, sometimes we may find wisdom, sometimes we may extract a lesson, sometimes our experience is pure awe, sometimes it’s delight. And, because I think God has a sense of humor, there are times I’ve laughed. There are times I’ve wept. There are times I’ve gasped. All of those reactions are responding to the gazillion ways God can encounter us or we can encounter God.

“Once we discover that the ‘book of nature’ is an ancient idea—that this really was God’s first way of reaching out to us—then it’s like we’re stepping into this giant prayer book when we step out into the natural world. This makes it impossible for me to be anywhere in creation, now, and not be aware of this God who is crouching down low, just waiting fo my attention.”

‘The Life-and-Death Value of Paying Attention’

Detailing the many perspectives readers will find in this collage of reflections, the American Library Association’s recommendation of her book begins with these lines:

Writing with a nurse’s foundation, a scientist’s eye, a theologian’s mind, and a poet’s soul, journalist Mahany contemplates God’s presence as revealed in nature—God’s “first sacred text.” Tracing the Judeo-Christian belief that scripture succeeds and augments nature by directing humanity to knowledge of the divine, Mahany looks to nature itself, marveling at its intricacies and blending scientific facts with literary descriptions that all point unquestionably to a grand designer worthy of worship.

When I read that review, I was intrigued that the writer had picked up especially on Barbara’s background as a nurse, so I asked her about that part of her life.

“That does make sense,” she said in our interview. “The fundamental art of nursing is paying attention and by that I mean paying sacred attention to every aspect of a patient’s life. Nursing is an example of life-and-death paying attention. Looking back at my life, I don’t think anyone would choose to go to nursing school as a first step toward become a writer, but I am so blessed that I did study at the nursing school of Marquette University, a Jesuit university, and I learned that life-saving discipline of paying attention.”

Are you already intrigued enough to get your own copy of this unique book? If so, click on the photo of the cover and order one right now.

And, yet, there’s so much more!

The Spiritual Revelations of ‘the Commonplacing Tradition’

Beyond the revelations of this nature-based approach to spirituality, in these pages readers also will discover a second spiritual discipline that will be of particular interest to anyone who loves writing, enjoys self expression or pursues the vocations of teaching or preaching.

Barbara doesn’t fully unveil this second spiritual practice until the middle page of this book, page 87 to be precise. That’s the page where she pauses to explain how she assembled this new book with its kaleidoscope of citations to other writers and sages. She was able to amass these vast resources—this crowdsourcing of her own book—through many years of a daily practice known as keeping a “commonplace.”

Despite the name, it’s certainly not a common term, today, but perhaps you recall seeing that unusual term somewhere? The practice stretches back many centuries as a sort of first cousin to keeping a daily diary or journal. Rather than simply recording one’s own notes in a notebook, a commonplace is a sort of scrapbook of collected bits and pieces from other writers and published sources.

Barbara began doing this during the many years she wrote for The Chicago Tribune. As she was working on her own reading, research and reporting through those years, she would save “all the best little bits I found.” This “squirreling away,” as she describes it, is the heart of the practice followed by writers and scholars from ancient Greeks to the Renaissance—to many writers today.

“Mostly, I keep my commonplace on my computer today,” Mahany said in our interview. “Writing this book began with an exercise in reading 200 books—reading each one with a pen in hand so I could underline passages and make notes in the margins. Then, when I would finish a book, I would type out all the quotes and notes along with the complete references to that book, right down to the page number. So, my commonplace that helped me to write this book wound up on my computer.

“But I have been doing this for years. For example, I love words. Whenever I’m struck by language that I love, I’m such a disciplined person that I put those words I have found into my commonplace. I’ll save those words along with the definition and a careful citation of the source. I have saved thousands of words and their references! I also have on my desk a journal into which I can stuff bits I come across, which was wonderful when I was writing this book. I could turn to my commonplace and see what I might have saved on a particular subject I was writing about: What have I got on starlight? On birds? On rain? There I would find all of these meticulously detailed pieces I could use.”

A Truly Mysterious Tradition

Barbara certainly is not alone! Sherlock Holmes created huge commonplace volumes for his personal library on a wide range of subjects. As Holmes researched the clues in one particular case, he turned to his commonplacing and Arthur Conan Doyle describes the great sleuth digging into a series of these tomes while sitting “upon the floor like some strange Buddha, with crossed legs, the huge books all round him.”

In fact, there is a long tradition of “commonplacing” among mystery writers. For example, a master of the “webwork plot,” Harry Stephen Keeler, would actually combine his mystery manuscripts and his commonplacing by pasting newspaper clippings into the pages of his early drafts.

Within literary circles, commonplacing keeps popping up as a valuable resource. W.H. Auden published one of his volumes, titled A Certain World—a Commonplace Book. The legendary comic book creator Alan Moore and novelist Virginia Woolf both have followed the “commonplacing tradition.” And today, fans of Lemony Snicket’s YA novels have read about this practice. Dozens of bestsellers over the years have amounted to commonplaces devoted to a particular theme, especially books that are collections of the best last words, eulogies and obituaries. In his book, Shining Brightly, Howard Brown describes how Babson College founder Roger Babson spread happiness each day of his life with his own commonplacing practice of sharing his joyful quotations with people he met. In Guide for Caregivers, Benjamin Pratt also recommends carrying your commonplace quotes with you on slips of paper to share with others.

You might think of commonplacing as core concept behind Pinterest.

In this book, Barbara describes the spiritual gifts of this process—and the reflections that spring from it—as “choreography” and the winding spiritual pathway through these reflections as “ideas wriggling around deep in your soul.”

“What I’m getting at when I say that is: Through this process, we can save references to moments that have captured our attention and imagination so that, later, we can continue to ponder them. We can look at these experiences from this angle, then from another angle. What I’m describing is a soulful movement in which we ponder things in various ways so that epiphanies may come.”

Don’t Overlook the Treasure Map!

If you want to start your own spiritual practice with the real-life book of nature—perhaps in your own back yard or in natural areas near your home—Barbara closes her book with a 30-page treasure map. Well, you might not recognize it, at first glance, as a map. But that’s what she lays out.

Part of this map is a detailed list of the 200 or so books by more than 100 writers that she explored as she prepared this manuscript. Then, she curates her own list with a section she calls “A Bookshelf of Wonder.” In these pages, she walks us through her library, pulls out books one or two at a time and explains in a paragraph why each selection might be valuable for her readers to explore.

“I’m glad you are going to point this out to your readers,” Barbara said. “Clearly, I’m someone who loves reading and I wrote this book as an invitation: Come along with me on this adventure.

“As I read for this book, I found writers who blew me away with their beauty and brilliance. As a journalist, I used to write a column for The Chicago Tribune called ‘Books for the Soul.’ So, I was in the habit of introducing other readers to the gems I was finding. That’s why I wanted to close this book by offering these recommendations to readers. At that point, they’ve shared the adventure with me and, before they go, I want them to be able to find some of the best books that shaped my own journey.”

“So, by the end of this book, your readers will have shared an adventure with you—and, as they depart, you’re loading their arms with books they really should read,” I said in our interview. “How do you hope they’ll be changed by this encounter?”

“That’s easy to answer,” she said. “I hope that I have introduced readers to this ancient and timeless idea that all of creation is shimmering with holiness, with the Divine, that is ours to encounter—and I hope that they will go out into the world themselves and begin to slow down as they look with new eyes and listen carefully.

“What is so amazing about this particular book—the book of nature—is that it is wordless. It is beyond our human languages. The book of nature needs no translation from part of the world to another. The book of nature is open to everyone of every tradition all around our world.”


Care to Read More?

GET THE BOOK—Barbara’s latest book, The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God’s First Sacred Text, which currently is available in hardcover and Kindle versions from Amazon.

VISIT BARBARA ONLINEIf you visit her website, you can learn a lot more about her, including her fascinating life story, which begins:

Barbara Mahany, a former pediatric oncology nurse, spent nearly three decades as a reporter and writer at the Chicago Tribune. She is now a freelance journalist and the author of five books, including four collections of essays. Her latest book, The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God’s First Sacred Text (Broadleaf Books), will be published on the next vernal equinox, March 21, 2023. Her first book, Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door (Abingdon Press, October 2014), has been called “balm for the hurried heart,” and “a field guide into your holiest hours.” Her second book, Motherprayer: Lessons in Loving (Abingdon Press, April 2017), explores the sacred mysteries of mothering—its sorrows, joys, trembles, hallelujahs, and the tumble of questions without answers.


Consider these Related Books on Daily Spiritual Resources

Torah Tutor—A Contemporary Torah Study Guide by pioneering Rabbi Leonore Bohm invites readers to explore the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, through the Jewish practice of dividing those books into a cycle of day by day readings.

Shining Brightly by entrepreneur and two-time cancer survivor Howard Brown tells true stories of resilience that depend on daily interactions with friends, family and the community around us.

A Guide for Caregivers by pastoral counselor Benjamin Pratt is divided into short chapters packed with creative ideas for the health and wellbeing of the millions of caregivers among us.


Gustavo Parajón, This Peacemaker’s Story Is Circling the World

As the biography of Gustavo Parajón circles the world, Baptist World Alliance President Tomás Mackey (center) was reading the book while attending a global gathering of church leaders. (Photo by BWA Executive Director Elijah Brown)

Prayers for the Carter Family

THIS WEEK, everyone involved in the global effort to publish Healing the World: Gustavo Parajón, Public Health and Peacemaking Pioneer is sharing news about the timeliness of Parajón’s story. As his inspiring biography spreads around the world, the entire team of collaborators on this publishing project (from the UK to the US and Latin America) is praying for former President Jimmy Carter and his family, since Carter played such a crucial role in Parajón’s life and the former president recently endorsed Parajón’s memoir. Please, share this story with friends this week.

Co-author Daniel Buttry explains that connection between Carter and Parajón:

During the Civil War in Nicaragua (also known as the Contra War), Jimmy Carter went to Nicaragua to establish a Habitat for Humanity project there. CEPAD, the ecumenical relief agency founded by Gustavo Parajón and other Protestant church leaders, became Habitat’s Nicaraguan partner. Gustavo was the main person President Carter worked with. Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter sometimes were guests in their home for dinner or breakfast. Gustavo visited the Carters in Plains, preaching at the Baptist Church there.

Jimmy Carter saw the peace and reconciliation work Gustavo was doing in Nicaragua, which is detailed in Healing the World. Because of the deep community connections, the courage, and the creativity Carter saw in Parajon, Carter nominated Gustavo Parajon for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Then, as this book about Parajón was nearing publication, Carter sent the following endorsement:

“While other members of Nicaragua’s National Reconciliation Commission, afraid of being captured, remained safely in the capital city, Gustavo Parajón went into his country’s conflict zones, explaining, ‘I was afraid of not doing what God asked of me.’ I’m grateful for this detailed chronicle that preserves and spreads his remarkable legacy.”

On February 18, 2023, the Carter Center announced that following a “series of short hospital stays,” Carter decided to “spend his remaining time at home with his family” in Plains to “receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention.”


Cynthia Vacca Davis’s ‘Intersexion’ explores the traumas and the hopes of Christian community

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

Editor of Read the Spirit magazine

Yes, as the cover of Cynthia Vacca Davis’s memoir proclaims, “sex” is a major theme in this book.

But if you read her title—Intersexion, A Story of Faith, Identity and Authenticity—all the way to the end, you’ll find another major theme of this book: Authenticy. And, beyond that, there’s a third major theme that matters deeply to millions of American people of faith these days: Community. The larger story within these 234 pages is about the fulfillment so many Americans are seeking in warmly embracing communities of faith.

The main narrative in this book describes the dramatic changes in Cynthia’s life through a close friendship at her church with Dani/Danny—who is part of a largely misunderstood gender minority and was going through even more titanic changes at the same time. As Dani moved toward embracing an authentic life as Danny, both Cynthia and Danny met the harshness of Evangelical exclusion. However, both of them refused to hide their own true stories in the shadows. Danny was experiencing physical and emotional changes as an intersex person and Cynthia was discovering the buzzsaws that friends of LGBTQ+ folks can face, as well.

Ultimately, that’s the reason millions of Americans should read this new book. Cynthia’s memoir tells us what it feels like inside the daily lives of both her friend and herself and their families—when faced with the harsh reality of Evangelical judgment. And, even though this particular book is about exclusion due to gender and sexuality, this echoes stories about exclusion due to race or ethnicity or simply an openness to questioning the almost fundamentalist doctrines held by many Evangelicals in America.

The most compelling reason to read this book—for most readers nationwide—is to learn what it feels like when people find themselves exiled from the iron gates of such rigid religious communities. There are millions of these refugees all across America, as we know from Pew Research. And, if you are not one of those refugees yourself, Cynthia’s book explains to the rest of us—including active members in the many churches that welcome minorities—that some of our Christian neighbors may be carrying profound wounds as they try to find new homes. Even as we extend a welcoming hand to these exiles, years may pass before those wounds heal, if ever.

Cynthia herself makes this case in the opening two paragraphs of a free downloadable-PDF she offers to folks who visit her website—CynthiaVaccaDavis.com. The PDF is a check list that she calls “5 Ways to Find Community after Leaving Church.” She writes in those opening paragraphs:

One of the biggest fears I had about walking away from church was losing my community. Church for me was never something I did halfway: It was a way of life. I was involved in church happenings multiple days each week. My social circle was derived almost entirely of people from our congregation. My emergency contacts? Church friends. Surrogate family for holidays? Again, church people. I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to rebuild community from scratch by myself. It was terrifying.

But the reality was way different than I feared. My social circle expanded exponentially after I stopped attending church. And the relationships I developed were deeper, richer, and more authentic than many of my Christian friendships had been. Although the process seemed organic and fairly effortless, in hindsight I can identify several shifts in my thinking and behavior that opened me to new and unexpected friendships.

These two paragraphs tell us a lot about Cynthia’s life and also the themes she explores in her new memoir. Among the details to note in these paragraphs: She’s still among the walking wounded. And, Cynthia assumes that the terms “church” and “Christian” refer to a kind of razor-edged, almost-fundamentalist Evangelical community. The fact is that, today, lots of mainline churches—and millions of Christians—fully welcome racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Her definition of “church” and “Christian” refer to claustrophobic circles in which she lived a lot of her life—and that will shape her worldview of those two terms for the rest of her life.

In an interview with Cynthia about her book, this week, she said, “As I began working with Danny on writing this book, I realized—and Danny realized—that writing our stories could be a gift to the larger community, giving people an authentic sense of what so many of us are going through. Of course, I realize there are other kinds of churches out there, but this book describes our church and our experience—because we know that so many others have had these experiences.”

The Lonely Curiosity of the Exiles

Cynthia Vacca Davis. (Photograph used with permission of the author.)

In our interview, I said to Cynthia: “You know one ray of sunshine related to your story is that, by and large, the battle for gender inclusion is all but over across America. There are still very active battlegrounds in states where conservatives are trying to chip away at civil rights. But overall, for example, a solid majority of Americans now support legal recognition of same-sex marriage and majorities also support a range of other LGBTQ rights. I live in Michigan, where our legislature finally voted, this month, to include LGBTQ rights in the state’s civil rights code. Yes, there are millions of former Evangelicals who are exiles precisely because of their concern for either their own gender identity or that of relatives, friends, coworkers and neighbors. It’s heartbreaking to think of so many people adrift because of religious bias. And, yes, there will continue to be heart-breaking battles for years to come—but that hard-edged Evangelical minority in America keeps shrinking each year.”

I said, “That’s a bit of a long-winded summary of the state of these issues—but the basic point I’m making is: Hopefully, the loneliness of the Evangelical exiles will be increasingly greeted by congregations with open doors and open arms. Do you think you might return to some kind of church?”

“I do think about this a lot,” Cynthia said. “I know there are churches out there right now who have very solid allies. But, because of what I’ve been through and what Danny’s been through, I don’t know if attending a brick-and-mortar church is in the future for me. I still don’t know if that will be possible for me in the future.

“Once we had made it through the kinds of experiences with church that we describe in this book, I think there’s a natural hesitancy about accepting the constant filter of a church again,” she said. “And, with this new freedom, I’m discovering new things to do with my Sunday mornings. I love my Sunday morning yoga, now, and I love meeting different people and trying different practices that are both meditative and are connected to community—just not inside a brick-and-mortar church.

“After my experiences, living outside those old boxes and walls is giving me something I’ve never experienced before and, right now, I want to explore that,” she said and paused for a moment before adding, “I do not want to say that I will never go back to church. But I am saying: Not now.”

She paused. Then, she added. “But ever? Church? For me? I do get curious.”

A Helpful Book for Caring Congregations

That is why, in my Amazon-book-page review of Cynthia’s book, I write:

This story does not end on a down note. The book’s concluding chapters describe the happier path these friends have charted beyond that insular world they once thought of as home. Although their story is grounded in the specifics of their own lives, their story mirrors that of millions of Americans who have walked away from Evangelical churches for a wide range of reasons, including racial, cultural and political biases that have become litmus tests in many churches.

This book is a great choice for individual reading or small-group discussion. At the moment, Cynthia is working on a discussion guide that she plans to post on her own website in coming months. Even if you are not part of the Evangelical world from which this book springs—this is an intimate and caring look at how lives are turned upside down by these all-too-common biases. That means this is a very helpful book for readers from more caring congregations, so they might be better prepared to welcome these battle-scarred folks into a healthier form of spiritual community.

I was pleased to hear from Cynthia’s publisher, David Morris of Lake Drive Books, that he agrees with my overall “take” on this book. That’s why he wanted to publish Cynthia’s memoir and that’s what he hopes readers will discover in these pages, he told me.

Here’s what David Morris said about the book: “As Cynthia went through all of these experiences she describes in her book, she realized that her community was at risk—and in some ways it was. She experienced some rejection and hard choices. But, through this process of deciding to be fully authentic and open, she found more connections, more community, than she had expected. What she discovered is that, once we are living authentically, our community may not look like what we thought it was going to look like. Our community can expand and change. And that’s true for so many of us these days—because our sense of community itself is growing and developing in this changing world.”

In my interview with Cynthia, I promised I would give her the last word in this story. Together, we chose the final paragraph of her new book as that last word:

“Danny taught me that being known is worth fighting for. It’s worth betting everything on. It’s risky. It’s terrifying. But it’s the only thing that matters. I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is, for the rest of my life, anyplace I go—church, job or otherwise—it will be as me, authentically: insides and outsides all in alignment.”


Care to read more?

GET THE BOOK—Cynthia’s Intersexion is available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and audio versions. 

VISIT CYNTHIA ONLNE—Visit her website, CynthiaVaccaDavis.com.

MORE LAKE DRIVE BOOKS—Find books on similar themes at David Morris’s website for Lake Drive Books.

EXPLORE TWO LANDMARK BOOKS—These two books are landmarks in the effort to welcome LGBTQ Christians:

MEET THE BIAS BUSTERSCheck out the 20 guidebooks to overcoming bigotry produced by the Michigan State University School of Journalism Bias Busters. Those books are available in Kindle and paperback editions. Volumes 12 and 14 in this series specifically explore sexuality and gender.



In Peter Wallace’s ‘Generous Beckoning,’ it’s God who is calling us.

If you click on this photo of Peter Wallace, you can jump to his personal website, where you’ll find a lot more links to his ongoing work, including links to Day1.

Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine


Can you hear it? See it? Feel it?

God’s calling.

Have you ever had such an experience? Or, have you sometimes wished that the chaos of life around you would calm to a point that you could take a deep breath and pause to listen, to watch, to feel what’s around you? In the stillness, maybe you’ll sense God’s presence in some way.

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

If so, then we’ve got a book for you: Peter Wallace’s new A Generous Beckoning: God’s Gracious Invitations to Authentic Spiritual Life. Here’s how Peter describes his book’s purpose in the Introduction:

My goal in these pages is to help you listen carefully for what God is saying to you today, what God is inviting into your life. As we journey together through a variety of texts throughout the Bible, each springing from a verb in the imperative case, I hope we will train our spiritual ears and eyes to see God beckoning generously to us, ever coaxing us to come closer, inviting us to experience life in all its fulness.

Hmmm, “the imperative case”? What’s that? Wikipedia calls that phrase a “a grammatical mood,” describing verbs that ask us something or, more specifically, ask us to do something.

In an interview about his new book, Peter said, “All of us would like to know: What is God saying to us? What does God want us to do? So, that is how I organized this book. Every Bible verse we consider together in this collection is in the imperative case. I want to capture what God is saying to us in terms of an invitation, a command, an urging or sometimes a nudge. God is talking to us in these verses we will explore together in these pages.”

That’s a big claim for an inspirational book, so I asked Peter to explain further how we might expect to discover God’s calls in these pages.

“There is a good summary on the last page,” he said.

We flipped to that last page. It says:

God is indeed beckoning us onward. Onward to Christ. Onward to sacrificial service. Onward to eternal fulfillment. God woos us to embrace Jesus and be embraced by him. God coaxes us to keep focused on everything God has for us. God beckons us to live generously in holy love, grace and power. It’s time to accept these incredible invtations to real life. And enjoy them forever.

That’s one way to sum up the book’s central theme.

Another one-word summary is: Relationship.

Restoring Relationships after Three Years of Pandemic

In our interview, I said, “Peter, just a few weeks ago, we featured a ReadTheSpirit interview with Rachel Srubas about her new Lenten reader, The Desert of Compassion. One of the major themes that I see both in her book and in your book is: relationship. Both of you are encouraging readers to realize that, after three years of pandemic, we all need to reach out intentionally to restore relationships and build new ones.”

I could see Peter nodding on our Zoom screen. He said, “I really appreciate that you caught that theme. Especially post-pandemic, we’re all hoping to restore and build new relationships. But as we try to do that, we need to stop and think about how and why we are doing this.”

During the pandemic, thousands of congregations have had a portion of their membership switch to streaming services rather than attending in person. As the head of a nationwide radio network, Peter has unique experience with the challenges of building a far-flung “virtual” audience into a network that feels like a community.

“I have participated myself in my own church’s Facebook-live streaming, when I can’t be there in person,” Peter said. “And I’ve enjoyed that very active online group. We share comments and prayer requests live during a service. So, I know myself that this kind of online group has become a very important part of many congregations.

“But we also need to think about ways that we can come together to put our faith into action,” he continued. “Part of an active, living and growing faith involves appreciating all the relationships we can have as parts of the Body of Christ. This is a big question for so many congregations right now: What does it mean to have a hybrid community of people both in person and online? How do we come together? And what does it mean for us to come together? How do we encompass that virtual congregation into the life of the whole church and how do we communicate most effectively to the people right in front of us—as well as those who are tuning in? These are questions congregations are facing everywhere today.”

‘A Veteran Voice in Ministry’

That’s another reason why this new book is so valuable. In these pages, Peter is sharing years of wisdom he has gleaned as a veteran voice in both ministry and in Christian media. For many years, Peter has been the creative hand at the helm of the Day1 radio network, which originated in 1945 as The Protestant Radio Hour. Peter came on board in 2001 and in many ways restructured the nonprofit program so that it has a bright future.

In addition to all of the famous Protestant preachers Peter has hosted on the network over the past two decades, Peter’s 15 books have carried his message of faith and hope into thousands of readers’ homes. His books also spark spirited conversations in congregations, especially because Peter offers easy-to-use discussion guides along with his new books. And, once again, there’s a free discussion guide with this new book, A Generous Beckoning.

Through all of his media outreach, Peter’s central theme is that there is a loving God who, through Jesus, wants to welcome all of us into a compassionate community of faith. For decades now, whatever specific subject Peter’s broadcasts and books may explore—from global issues of injustice to the challenges of personal spirituality—the defining theme is Christian compassion.

What’s in this Book? And how can we use it?

Christian compassion—that’s the best way I can describe the 100 meditations in this book, based on short selections from the Bible. This is a mainline Protestant look at the timeless call of the Trinity—God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit—to inspire, console and motivate us to make this world a better place. That total of 100 includes an introduction, followed by three sections of 33 chapters. The first major section draws on passages from the Old Testament about God; the second section draws on Gospel verses about Jesus; and the third explores the Holy Spirit at work in our world from selections in the Epistles (that is, the “letters” that follow the Gospels in the New Testament).

In a little over three months of daily reading, Peter takes us through the entire Bible, focusing in this book especially on passages in which God speaks to people through scripture—that “imperative case” we talked about in our interview.

As a media veteran, Peter has honed a friendly conversational voice as he illustrates these daily reflections mainly with stories from his own life—his childhood, his various professional roles over the years and his home life now. His intention is that readers will recognize these stories as common experiences that they most of us share. By taking a journey through our lives, Peter hopes, we may discover that God has been there all along, waiting for us to reach out.

This book is great for individual spiritual reflection, for small-group discussion and for gift giving if you have a friend or loved one who might enjoy such a resource.

At the close of our interview, I asked Peter what he hopes readers will take away from this book.

“My hope is that readers will sense an authentic voice—often a painfully honest voice—that encourages them to be authentic in their own life both in the groaning and the joy, and everything in between, as a way to grow into maturity in the faith,” he said. “I hope people really can be invited to put their faith to work. We need that so much today.”


Care to Read More?

THIS MAY SURPRISE YOU! Recently, we featured a Read the Spirit magazine cover story written by Peter Wallace about his professional connection with Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee, who was contemplating launching a line of Christian comics. No kidding! In fact, there are several daily readings in Peter’s new book, A Generous Beckoning, that draw on stories from his life-long love of comics. Here’s that earlier story by Peter about Stan Lee.

MEET PETER. A great one-stop webpage of Peter Wallace links is this “About” page from his personal website. This page lists all of Peter’s books and includes links to his Amazon page, to the Day1 radio network—and much more.

Want more Lenten recommendations?

PETER’S NEW BOOK is designed to be read anytime throughout the year, but we can confirm that it would be appropriate to start this book during Lent 2023. Of course, with so many readings between these two covers, it will carry you into summer if you enjoy these chapters on a daily basis.

MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS make a point of daily devotional reading during Lent. Our team at the publishing house recommends several books, this year:

FIRST, if you have not already enjoyed Our Lent: Things We Carry by David Crumm, you can find that daily reader in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

SECOND, for Lent 2023, we also are recommending Rachel Srubas’ thoughtful new book, The Desert of Compassion, which we featured in a Read the Spirit Cover Story in early February this year.

PLUS, we also are pleased to recommend the latest Kindle edition in the best-selling Lenten series launched by the late Bishop Kenneth Untener back in 2000: The Little Black Book for Lent 2023. David Crumm reviews this new edition and shares the inspiring story of this worldwide outreach from Ken’s team in Michigan.




Tamron Hall welcomes Bob Alper and the Laugh in Piece comics: ‘Guests who are very dear to my heart!’

Need a little laughter?

IN THE VIDEO ABOVE, enjoy 9 minutes with Tamron Hall and the Laugh in Peace comedy team, a trio that recently appeared in New York City and now are showing up on TV talk shows. They earlier appeared on CBS News, for example.

Want to laugh along with Bob anytime? We publish two of his books that collect some of his most popular stories. There’s Thanks. I Needed That. And, we also publish Life Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This.


Dr. David Gushee on the Importance of ‘Introducing Christian Ethics’ in an era of ‘Global Killers’

Q&A: How does ‘Christian Ethics’ translate into a ‘guide for daily living’?

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

A year ago this week, only four days after Russia invaded Ukraine with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox church, our publishing house released Dr. David Gushee’s magnum opus: Introducing Christian Ethics: Core Convictions for Christians Today, which currently is available with a striking new blue cover via Amazon in Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle and Audible audio.

Our magazine headline that week, one year ago, was: With Christianity in crisis, Dr. David Gushee’s ‘Introducing Christian Ethics’ lays out a faithful path forward.

Soon, Russia began rattling its nuclear sabers, millions of new refugees were moving across Europe, global fears rose and many of us became more aware than we were before of threats that Gushee describes as “global killers”—threats to our future as a planet.

To mark the one-year anniversary of this timely book, Read The Spirit Editor David Crumm sat down with Dr. Gushee for this Question and Answer session.

QUESTION: What feedback have you heard from readers of Introducing Christian Ethics over the past year?

ANSWER: I continue to hear very encouraging things from readers. For example, Shane Claiborne sent me a new endorsement as we reached the one-year anniversary of the book.

QUESTION: We got a copy of Shane’s endorsement at the publishing house and we’ll add it to our conversation right here. He wrote:

Honestly, David Gushee is one of the most important voices on morality in our generation. I keep this book on my top bookshelf and it never gathers dust. David is one of the most wise, comprehensive, kind people I know. I could not more highly recommend Introducing Christian Ethics, especially in this current age where morality, truth, history and the future are all in jeopardy. It’s gold—actually, it’s even better than gold.

In relatively few words, Shane managed to hit on several of the key points readers are making about this book, didn’t he?

ANSWER: Yes, he did and that was very kind of Shane. He sums up a lot of the things we’re hearing from readers around the world.

First, readers tell us that this book is accessible and readable in a way that they’re not used to seeing in academic writing. I’ve also heard a lot of appreciation for the balanced presentation of the field as a whole—readers are pleased that they do not find just one perspective on these questions. And, I’ve heard from readers who appreciate learning more about Howard Thurman’s approach to the teachings of Jesus.

A Deep Dive into the Nature of Truth

QUESTION: We’re hearing those same things at the publishing house, but I would say that one of the most urgent questions readers are raising concerns the nature of truth itself. Did you expect to have to write about that so prominently in this book?

ANSWER: You’re right, this book takes a deep dive into the meaning and importance of truth. People realize that we are living in an era when truth is challenged, threatened, contested in ways that are new to those of us who have been around for a while. We have not seen this kind of manipulation of words, disinformation, misinformation—and now we have fewer if any agreed-upon arbiters of what is true. When I first began working in Christian ethics years ago, these were not the kinds of central issues they are now.

I also have heard from readers who appreciate the way I name Donald trump as having abused the truth in his presidency—and he continues to do so even now. I do not hold back or try to write in generalities about this. I feel strongly that his name needs to be named if we are going to be at all honest about what we’re dealing with right now.

The value of the truth, the significance of the truth, matters if we are going to maintain truthfulness as a laudatory character quality that we want to inculcate in our children and in our churches. That used to be taken for granted, but now people boldly tell bald-faced lies if they feel it can benefit them—and there do not appear to be substantial consequences for doing so.

In this new book, I get deeply into the question of truth—in fact more deeply than anything I have written before.

A ‘Magnum Opus’ with the emphasis of audio and video

QUESTION: We also are hearing from readers who are impressed that this is a uniquely multi-media book with options to read the text—or to listen to the audio or watch the video version with the click of a QR code. That’s something new for you, isn’t it?

ANSWER: Yes, and I am so pleased that we were able to put all of that content, including the audio and video, into the book without jacking up the price until it’s not affordable to most readers.

People tell me that they like to hear me read the book or to see me on video, if they choose to use those links. Hearing me or seeing me that way gives readers a better sense of my convictions, my passions, as I was writing these chapters. Most readers still want an ink-on-paper version of a book like this, so they can mark it up and add notes and so on. But, in this case, they also have those multimedia options.

It’s been fun, even in my own family. My grandson Jonah thinks it’s wonderful that he can click on a code and hear me, or see me.

QUESTION: Those multi-media options seemed important to all of us as we worked with you in developing this book. After all, this book has been described as your magnum opus—a major work summing up your decades of teaching. Do you agree?

ANSWER: Yes, but it’s more than a summation. One way to think about this book is that it represents an extended meditation on my own prior thought, including my earlier book Kingdom Ethics, which many readers also have on their shelves, as well as my other books.

If people already know my work, they will find in these pages a fresh engagement with that work over the decades. I graduated 30 years ago with my phD, which is a nice round number as a point to think back on three decades of work. So, it’s not just a summation. There’s fresh reflection here on all that has come before.

The Centrality of the Holocaust in Christian Ethics

QUESTION: Some of your reflections have changed, over time. But some of the major themes in your life’s work remain constant. For example, you continue to lift up the importance of minority voices. And you continue to emphasize the remembrance of past crimes and injustices—the Holocaust comes to mind. That’s central to your own life story, right?

ANSWER: I was born in Germany in 1962. There were war criminals and survivors walking the streets of Frankfurt when I was a baby. The centrality of the Holocaust to understanding Christianity and God’s relationship to the world is so clear to me that it surprises me to see how students I am working with today do not see the Holocaust as such a central issue in their studies. It’s as if the salience of the Holocaust is fading in our culture and in academia. I feel my generation has a sacred responsibility to keep this memory alive.

My dissertation was on Christians who rescued Jews in the Holocaust and that was significant in setting a trajectory for me. The Holocaust comes up in this book periodically because it’s a feature of all of my work.

QUESTION: You also emphasize the importance of our individual points of view—the lenses of our individual lives—even as we try to reach out to build bridges with minority communities. You’re talking about the importance of Black scholars like Howard Thurman and the importance of remembering Christian guilt in the Holocaust, but we’re well aware as readers that you are neither Black nor Jewish yourself.

Why is that question of personal perspective so important?

ANSWER: I am increasingly aware of the white Christian-centered world in which I was educated and into which I emerged. Now, I’m much more aware than I was years ago at the structural problems that European-American-colonial-White Christianity has caused. I’m more aware of the sins and the damage caused by this community out of which I come. The only hope for redemption, I think, lies in consciously trying to move outside of that world so we can listen to those who have been trampled on by our forebears. We must listen to those who have been on the margins and whose lives and voices have not mattered to the dominant groups. By situating Howard Thurman early in this new book, for example, I’m saying: I want us to read and think about Christian ethics through the experiences of people like Howard.

Why is ‘Introducing Christian Ethics’ a ‘guide for life’?

QUESTION: You have described Introducing Christian Ethics as a “guide for life.” At first glance, this looks more like a textbook than what we might think of as a daily “guide.” How are you hoping this book can guide everyday readers?

ANSWER: I think that we live in a time of a great deal of moral confusion and moral conflict. We are less and less clear about even the most basic things that have helped to structure Christian moral thinking—and that’s true whether we are “Christian,” “ex-Christian,” “Evangelical” or “ex-Evangelical.”

In this book, I take the reader on a journey through a series of questions: What is ethics? What is morality? Why is morality important? Is there any substance and solidity to our moral beliefs? How do we know what we know? How do we deal with the inevitable moral differences between people?

Confronting an Aggressive and Unjust War

QUESTION: Let’s talk about differences between Christians. Right now, for example, the head of a major branch of Christianity—the Russian Orthodox Church—has aligned himself completely with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The global consensus on Christian ethics clearly is divided, isn’t it?

ANSWER: That question illustrates the importance of thinking about differences we may encounter in Christian ethics, but I do not think the Christian world really is divided on the question of the Russian invasion. What this example illustrates is the problem of leaders who sometimes are not trustworthy. My reading of the Patriarch of Russia is that his loyalty to his country and to his president is outweighing his clarity of thought that ought to be there when he thinks about this war. This is an aggressive war against a country that the world recognizes as an independent nation. I would say that 99.99 percent of all Christian ethicists and Christian leaders in the world understand this to be an aggressive and unjust war.

One of the things my colleague Glen Stassen helped me to see—and this point is included in Introducing Christian Ethics—is that it’s quite a struggle to think clearly faithfully and biblically in a Jesus kind of way when our own interests are at stake and our own loyalties are implicated. If our own family members are involved in something, we’re not going to think about it in the same way as someone whose family is not at the heart of it.

What are ‘Global Killers’?

QUESTION: Considering all the ethical issues you cover in this book, which ones would you place at the top of a list of “Most Urgent” issues today?

ANSWER: That’s a difficult question to answer because so many of these issues relate to daily headlines we all are reading from around the world.

So, I’m going to answer that question by grouping some issues together under what I would call “Global Killers.” By that I mean that “most urgent” are threats to the survival of human life—and planetary life as a whole. So, that puts global environmental challenges at the top of my list and the potential use of weapons of mass destruction from nuclear to chemical and biological weapons. There are more weapons of mass destruction now in the hands of dangerous leaders than ever before.

In responding to these “Global Killers,” we must affirm that life is God’s gift. This planet is God’s—and we humans have been entrusted with stewardship responsibilities.

Right now, we are wondering: Will our positive and creative potential prevail over our negative and destructive potential? A lot of pessimistic scholars today are saying that humanity is suicidal and even homicidal in terms of our treatment of God’s creation.

QUESTION: And yet you remain optimistic. This ultimately is a hope-filled book, isn’t it?

ANSWER: As a Christian, I have to believe that God is alive, that Jesus is not finished with us, that the Holy Spirit still moves—and that humanity and the church can continue to learn new things.

In fact, a good example of that is the way I describe how our tradition can be open to new insights in my earlier book, Changing Our Mind.

Care to Read More?

FOLLOW DR. GUSHEE’S WORK through our ongoing coverage at Read the Spirit weekly magazine. Click on the “get updates” link in the upper-right corner of our website to sign up for free weekly email updates. Don’t worry—you also can cancel those emails anytime. When Dr. Gushee has important new columns, new public appearances and even new books, our magazine will let you know.

ORDER YOU OWN COPY of Introducing Christian Ethics from Amazon now.

ON AMAZON, you’ll also find Dr. Gushee’s earlier best seller, Changing Our Mind.