The Rev. Dr. John Harnish, author of ’30 Days with E. Stanley Jones,’ is honored with a global award in Christian outreach

“At the beginning of my ministry,” says the Rev. Dr. John E. Harnish, “I never intended to be connected with colleges, seminaries and campus ministry, but looking back over 50 years, I realize what an important part it has played in my life.”

Education has played a large part in the work of the Methodist Church around the world as well. Methodism had its birth when John Wesley was a student at Oxford and his “Holy Club” was mockingly called “Methodists” because they were so methodical in their disciplined life. When Frances Asbury came to the American colonies as the first Methodist Bishop, he said he believed there should a school beside every church. Wherever Methodists have gone in the world they have established schools and colleges as well as churches.

Annually, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the church’s program of higher education and campus ministry with the “Frances Asbury Award.”

In 2022, the Michigan recipient is author Rev. Dr. John E. Harnish, who has just published 30 Days with E. Stanley Jones—Global Preacher, Social Justice Prophet. Jones himself counted education as one of his own primary goals in global evangelism.

How did Harnish find himself focusing on education? He says, “It started in my early years in ministry when my District Superintendent made it possible for me as a young preacher to serve on the conference Board of Ordained Ministry.”  That led to his connection with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry where he eventually serving for seven years as the Associate General Secretary.

Two events during his time with the General Board book-end United Methodism’s commitment to education—the grand opening of Africa University and the 250th Anniversary of Kingswood College. His first international trip on behalf of the board took him to the new university in Zimbabwe and on a trip to England he shared in the anniversary of Kingswood, John Wesley’s first school. Today there are 107 United Methodist colleges, universities and seminaries in the USA and over 1,000 Methodist-related institutions across the globe.

Dr. Harnish is a graduate of Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.  He has served on the Boards of Trustees for the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary in Estonia, Methodist Theological School in Ohio and Adrian College in Michigan. As the pastor of Ann Arbor First United Methodist Church, he worked with the Wesley Foundation at the University of Michigan and when he pastored First United Methodist Church of Birmingham, MI, the church was linked with four seminaries–Garrett-Evangelical, Duke, Costa Rica and Estonia.

Harnish says, “I am grateful for the Frances Asbury Award and I give thanks for the opportunities to be involved in this facet of the global work of United Methodism.”

Charles Wesley wrote a hymn for Kingswood College which includes the line: “Unite the pair so long dis-joined–knowledge and vital piety. 

Over the centuries,” Harnish says, “that has been the commitment of Methodism, and looking back, I am glad I’ve been able to share in it.”

 

Can the prophetic voice of E. Stanley Jones revive a life-giving love of Jesus?

.

A Prophet for These Times, When Christianity is in Crisis

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

One of the most widespread Christian movements of the 20th Century is in deep trouble. Don’t take my word for it. Search the word “evangelical” in Google-News and you will shake your head wearily at the tragic headlines—from angry public confrontations to rampant bigotry, mud slinging and sexual abuse. In his February 2022 analysis of this crisis for The New York Times, David Brooks writes:

“There have been three big issues that have profoundly divided evangelicals: the white evangelical embrace of Donald Trump, sex abuse scandals in evangelical churches and parachurch organizations, and attitudes about race relations, especially after the killing of George Floyd.”

For most of American history, the word “evangelical” was proudly claimed by Christians who loved Jesus and wanted to make the world a better place. So, this truly is a historic turning point when so many religious leaders across America—including many Christian leaders themselves—are arguing that it’s time to retire the explosive term “evangelical” altogether.

But then, they ask: Where does that leave Christians who still want to follow Jesus’s teachings and do good in our world? Is there a life-giving pathway forward for Christians who deeply love Jesus and see in Christ a welcoming, inclusive and socially just calling for our world?

Meet E. Stanley Jones and Discover His Embrace of the World

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page. Amazon will begin shipping copies of this book on February 15, 2022. The book also is available from Barnes & Noble, Walmart and other online retailers.

Meet E. Stanley Jones. Take a moment to click on the book cover and order a copy from Amazon. You will find yourself surprised—and inspired.

In his heyday, Jones was a global Christian teacher who most Americans considered as important as Billy Graham in spreading the message of Jesus around the world. He was a prophetic voice against racism within Christianity and also had an enormous impact in worldwide interfaith relationships. As we reported earlier, Jones was the catalytic figure who connected the message of Mahatma Gandhi with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Right now, there is a small but growing worldwide movement to revive the message of this humble and deeply compassionate teacher by lifting up the many treasures from this once-best-selling author. Our publishing house is part of this movement. This week, we are publishing 30 Days with E. Stanley Jonesan inspiring introduction to his life and teachings designed for a month of inspirational reading and for small-group discussion. We are launching our book just as the E. Stanley Jones Foundation, which has maintained his literary legacy, closes in on its effort to bring complete editions of the 27 inspirational books Jones wrote during his lifetime into contemporary paperback editions. The year 2025 will mark 100 years since Jones’ first books began circulating around the world. Both our publishing house and the Jones Foundation hope that Jones’ message may once again help to call Christians toward a more compassionate embrace of the world.

“It is our good fortune that a person like E. Stanley Jones came into our world,” said Anne Mathews-Younes, who is Jones’ granddaughter and the president of the Foundation. “What was so powerful about his message and the reason so many people around the world wanted to see him, to hear him and to read his books was that he truly was in love with the whole world. He knew Jesus was his best friend—and, as a result, he saw everyone around the world as a friend.”

“He wanted to put his arms around the whole world,” said John Harnish, the author of the new 30-day reader of inspiring stories drawn from Jones’ life.

“Yes, he did,” said Mathews-Younes as the two spoke by Zoom in an interview about the release of Harnish’s new book. “And that’s what you’ve done in your new book. You’ve put your arms around dozens of stories from throughout his life that show his spirit and his message.”

In the Preface that Mathews-Younes wrote for Harnish’s new book, she puts it this way: “My grandfather was recognized as an evangelist who did not ask you to leave your intellect at the door. Rather, his messages engage the mind as well as the heart with the deeper and eternal matters for our world. … His words brought hope and refreshment to millions of people from every walk of life and I hope that these passages—skillfully chosen by John E. Harnish—do the same for you.”

‘If Protestants had saints, E. Stanley Jones would be one.’

The book’s Foreword was written by Dr. W. Stephen Gunter, one of the leading scholars of evangelism today who is active in the movement to lift up Jones’ teachings for a new generation. In that Foreword, Gunter writes in part:

Shaped in the womb of holiness Methodism, E. Stanley Jones’s writings exemplify this foundational Wesleyan principle: his stories (and his own personal biography) warm the heart, but they are without fail informed by sound scriptural principles. In their very essence, Jones’ writings are theological lessons to live by. That is why I love Jones’s writings, and that is why I enthusiastically accepted the invitation from the Rev. John E. Harnish to write a commendation and foreword for this book. This book is unlike most every devotional book I have ever seen: it both warms the heart and instructs the mind—a unique contribution to the genre of devotional literature.

In these pages you will get to know the heart and mind of E. Stanley Jones. Each of these devotionals stands on its own with the following characteristics:

  1. You look through a window of insight into the mind of Jones.
  2. You read a life vignette that illustrates a foundational concept that informed his ministry.
  3. You discover a pivotal principle that has application to the current context.
  4. You “meet Jesus again for the first time.” And this Jesus challenges your vested assumptions about what it means to be a Jesus-follower. …

If Protestants had saints, E. Stanley Jones would be one. …

E. Stanley Jones would like this book, and I think you will too.

.

Care to learn more?

Order a copy from Amazon. You will find yourself surprised—and inspired. As of February 15, 2022, the book will be available in paperback as well as a sturdy hardcover edition. Soon, it will be available on Kindle as well. The book also will be on sale this week at Barnes & Noble, including in the Nook version—plus at Walmart and other online retailers.

LEARN ABOUTHow E. Stanley Jones, Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Are Connected

LEARN ABOUT the ongoing work of author, pastor and teacher John E. Harnish by visiting his website. Known as “Jack” to friends and colleagues, you also can learn about upcoming events and classes Jack is leading about the legacy of E. Stanley Jones. If you are interested in inviting Jack to share with your community, it’s easy to contact him through his website.

LEARN ABOUT how the news of this book launch is moving from American communities to a global audience in this Front Edge Publishing column about the book’s reception.

LEARN ABOUT Anne Mathews-Younes and the work of the E. Stanley Jones Foundation by visiting the foundation’s website.

LEARN ABOUT another Christian author and teacher who has been influenced by the message of E. Stanley Jones: Ken Whitt’s own book is appropriately called God Is Just Loveand tells readers about the many ways families can develop a healthy love of Jesus and the world.

And, please come back next week to ReadTheSpirit online magazine for a column by Ken about the experience of meeting E. Stanley Jones, when Ken was a young man and Jones was nearing the end of his life.

In ‘From Dry Bones to Living Hope,’ Missy Buchanan brings spiritual solace to families as we age

Clicking on this top photo will take you to Missy Buchanan’s Facebook page called “Aging and Faith.” She is active on that Facebook page every day and likes to post inspirational texts, images and stories that might brighten your day—and that you can easily share with your own friends and family.

.

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

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

Missy Buchanan knows that many of the people who purchase her books aren’t the ones who ultimately read them. Frequently, men and women buy her books for older friends and loved ones—often because those older folks already love Missy’s writing and are eager to get her latest book.

In other words: Missy’s new book, From Dry Bones to Living Hope might make a perfect gift for an older person on your holiday gift list—perhaps someone who is otherwise hard to shop for. The paperback edition of her book is printed in “enlarged type,” so it’s easy for everyone to read, even people with visual challenges. And, her book also is available via Kindle from Amazon, because lots of older men and women enjoy reading on Kindles (or other tablet-style devices) that are easy to hold, to transport and to adjust to various type sizes.

Depending on your own age, and the ages of your friends and family members, you may recognize Missy as the nation’s leading author specializing in bringing spiritual solace to men and women who are in their mid-70s or older.

Yes, that’s a very specific niche within the genre of inspirational writing. It’s an audience that Missy understands from her many years of work as an educator, a small-group teacher for older adults and as a speaker at countless events, classes, retreats and conferences.

That national reputation is why, a decade ago, Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts recruited Missy to help her elderly mother Lucimarian Roberts write her own memoir. Roberts contacted Missy because she learned that Missy was her mother’s favorite author. Lucimarian kept a well-read copy of one of Missy’s inspirational readers in her bedroom. The result of this collaboration was the best-selling My Story, My Song, Lucimarian’s autobiography “as told to Missy Buchanan.”

(Back in 2012, ReadTheSpirit published a story about that project, based on a heart-felt column Missy wrote after the book was published and she learned that Lucimarian had passed away.)

“I’m in a niche where the people I’m writing for—my main readers—often are receiving my books from adult children, a friend, a caregiver or someone at church,” Missy said. “Once they find my books, they connect with the honest voice I use when I’m writing—and they sometimes will read my books over and over again. I remember hearing from a daughter that she didn’t like my books, then two weeks later I got a letter from her mother—who actually read the book—saying, ‘Finally! Someone understands what I’m going through.'”

“These older readers understand what I’m writing about and they love my books—but many of these men and women in their 80s and 90s don’t have active Amazon accounts themselves,” Missy said. “So, they often are getting my books from their adult children, their church or their younger friends. It is a little bit of a challenge for me as a writer that a lot of my books aren’t bought by my readers—they’re bought for my readers by someone else.”

In fact, that situation can lead to some occasional misunderstandings. From the debut of her very first book in 2008, some younger adults are unsettled by her writing.

Missy told me, “I’ve even heard from some younger adults who tell me, ‘Your books are depressing!’ But,  they’re not depressing for the people who I’m writing for. I’ve found that my readers—people who are in their 70s, 80s and 90s—are completely honest about the hard challenges of aging. It’s usually their adult children who are more nervous about honestly discussing these issues. I’ve learned that from the very first book I published.”

That first book in 2008 was titled, Living with Purpose in a Worn-out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults.

As editor of this online magazine, I have to admit that my own first reaction to Missy’s title was: That’s depressing! When I interviewed Missy the very first time about that book, I was honest in admitting my reaction. I told her, “Stop and think about this for a moment: Who would buy a gift for an older friend or loved one with a title that says the person has a Worn-out Body?

She laughed at my reaction. In fact, her book already was flying off bookstore shelves. In fact, that very first book was Lucimarian’s favorite and led to Missy’s work on Lucimarian’s best-selling memoir.

Over the years, I have chuckled with Missy about that initial reaction—and how wrong I was. Missy has proven that she has a pitch-perfect genius for wording her inspirational stories and her spiritual advice so that they directly connect with her target audience. At this point, she has thousands of loyal readers waiting for her next new book—although they sometimes do rely on younger family members or friends to actually purchase these new books for them.

What’s in Missy Buchanan’s new book?

In 144 pages, Missy gives us 21 chapters with titles, such as: Life in the Valley of Dry Bones, When Praise Will Not Come, Digital Divide, The Path to Purpose, Persistently Patient, Divine Interruptions and Standing on the Promises.

Each chapter begins with a brief Bible passage, ranging from Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah and of course Ezekiel’s story of dry bones springing to life—to the New Testament’s I Corinthians and Philippians. Then, after the short scripture, there is a “prayerful lament,” describing common challenges as we age. Readers who are familiar with Psalms will recognize many of these “laments” as contemporary Psalms, calling out to God for help. Throughout her body of work, Missy clearly loves Psalms. She even devotes one entire chapter in this new book to wisdom from the life of David, who is credited as the author of many Psalms.

“The fact that there is a lament in each chapter goes back to what we were talking about earlier,” Missy said. “My goal always is honesty about what older adults are going through. One of the things I hear from older people wherever I go is: ‘Don’t sugar coat it! If you do sugar coat it, we wont believe you.’ But, I don’t stop with the lament. After expressing honestly those feelings on our hearts, then we must ask: What are we going to do about that today? Those action steps are hugely important.”

Missy’s ultimate destination in each chapter is the third section, which she calls “Cultivating Hope.” These are very practical ideas for spiritual reflection, including many pages where readers may want to jot down their responses to her questions.

“Upper Room should sell a pen along with your book,” I told Missy. “Readers will need a pen or perhaps a pencil to jot down their thoughts.”

“Oh, yes, we hope people will write in this book,” she said. “Got to have a pen or pencil handy when you’re reading this book!”

Of course, that also means Missy’s new book is essentially a self-contained study guide that’s perfect for individual reflection, small-group discussions, men’s or women’s circles in congregations or Sunday School classes.

And one important note for our magazine’s readers who are not Christian: Missy herself is Christian and this new book does draw occasionally on inspirational passages from the Christian New Testament. But Missy also is a nondenominational writer and the majority of her chapters spring from “Abrahamic” roots, drawing heavily from Hebrew scriptures (the Christian Old Testament). Plus, her preferred style of addressing God is simply as “God”—so that her loyal audience already extends far behind specifically Christian readers.

Missy Buchanan’s Practical Spiritual Advice

Missy’s new book springs from the inspiration of Ezekiel, Chapter 37, the famous Bible passage in which God’s spirit moves through dry bones and brings them to new life. It’s a dramatic and very concrete image that has inspired many writers and artists down through the centuries, including the great hymn writer James Weldon Johnson, who composed the spiritual Dem Bones and first recorded it with Jubilee Singers in 1928.

The advice in Missy’s Cultivating Hope sections is similarly concrete. Her questions are direct and varied. In a single paragraph, she might suggest four or five ideas to light up your day. Reading her book reminded me immediately of Ken Whitt’s God Is Just Love, written for multi-generational families and spilling over with so many practical ideas that Ken closes with a section called, “100 Things Families Can Do to Find Hope and Be Love.” This style of writing turns these books into spiritual toolboxes!

“Missy, I’ve got to credit you with some ideas in this book that I’ve never heard before—and that’s really saying something because I’ve been looking at new inspirational books for decades, now,” I told her in our interview. “My favorite new idea in your book is: Praying during the commercial breaks in TV shows. I love it! Great spiritual leaders have recommended fixed-hour prayer for thousands of years. But, now you’ve added a truly new twist! Mute the TV during commercial breaks and pray for several minutes.”

Missy laughed. “Well, I’ve got to tell you that idea comes from the fact that I see sooo many older people who spend their days sitting in a chair with the TV going. They may have the remote right there, so they could turn off that TV and do something else, but a lot of them never touch the remote. A major first step to help a lot of these men and women is to get them to turn off that TV and do something else. So, I thought: Hmmm, a first step just might be asking them to grab that remote, mute the commercials and spend that time in prayer.”

She chuckled again. “I mean, it may sound like a crazy idea for prayer, but if you think about it—getting away from that TV is the real goal.”

“What makes you keep writing these books?” I asked her as we closed our interview. “What do you hope your writing accomplishes in the world?”

“I want to be a companion to my readers,” she said. “One of the sweetest photos I ever was sent came from a woman whose mother had died. When she went in to take care of her mother’s things, after the funeral, she looked at the stack of books on her mother’s nightstand. Several of my books were there with bookmarks sticking out of them at various pages she loved. It was obvious her mother had read these books many times. In her note with the photo the woman wrote one of the best things I could have received. She wrote: ‘Mom almost wore out our books!’ ”

.

Care to Read More?

ReadTheSpirit has been recommending Missy’s books for many years. 

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

Missy also wrote the Foreword for our own 2021 book, Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging.

In that Foreword, she wrote in part: “It is true that every person’s journey of aging is unique. That’s why this book offers such a vast array of information on the most vital topics of aging. Drawing on the expertise and experiences of professionals involved in eldercare, this book will truly guide families through the uneven landscape of late life—and will point readers toward helpful answers for the question we all share, at some point in life: Now what?”

In her new ‘Until Now,’ Carrie Newcomer calls all of us to sing for our lives and our communities

Click the cover to visit the Amazon page for Carrie Newcomer’s new CD, Until Now. The page also lists streaming and MP3 options. Amazon also sells Carrie’s new book of poetry that expands on themes in this new album.

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

What does a folksinger do without folks?

Our last ReadTheSpirit cover story featuring Carrie Newcomer was published on March 9, 2019, one year before the COVID pandemic in the United States led to social-distancing nationwide. This week, I had a chance to ask Carrie about the toll of the pandemic on her career as a performer. For many years, her life has been defined by tireless touring across North America and occasionally around the world.

So, my first question was: “What does a folksinger do without folks?”

“As happened to all of us, the regular patterns of my life completely altered. My last in-person tour happened in early March of 2020,” Carrie said in our interview. “Finally, just two weeks ago, I went out on my first in-person tour since that time. That’s a very long time to be home. Within a month of the COVID lockdown, I was spending more time at home than I had for 25 years! So the patterns of my life and the rituals of my work completely altered at the drop of a hat—like a sudden: Now, it all ends.”

While some of Carrie’s life-long habits ended for a time—new creative realms opened.

“I was very fortunate that I became involved with the start of the concert-streaming company Mandolin,” she said. Her husband Robert Meitus is a musician and a prominent entertainment-industry attorney who, during the pandemic, also was co-founding Mandolin. If you care to learn more, here is Mandolin’s own brief history.

“Because I was a sort-of resident artist as Mandolin was growing so rapidly, I wound up testing a lot of the new things they were adding to the service,” Carrie said. The company’s home base is in Indianapolis, not far from Carrie’s and Robert’s home in Bloomington. “So, I spent a lot of time with Mandolin, especially in the early days.” And, over the past year, Mandolin has turned into a meteoric success story. In June 2021, the annual music-industry awards given by Pollstar magazine honored Mandolin as the best streaming platform, as reported in Variety. Mandolin’s current concert lineup is featured here, and Carrie’s own artist’s page within that larger website lists her upcoming events.

“So, because of my connection with Mandolin, I was able to do some online concerts and workshops and that was very helpful—although it is a very different animal.”

COVID and ‘The Great Unraveling’

“A very different animal.”

The cultural, public-health, political, racial and spiritual upheavals of the pandemic have blown apart countless communities around the world. In Carrie’s new album and accompanying book of poetry—both of them titled simply Until Now—she never uses the word “COVID” or the term “pandemic.” She refers to this time of upheaval in the opening lines of her first new song as “the great unraveling.”

And what’s the good news here? Fans of Carrie’s work over the years will know that she always brings good news with the bad. The good news here is that she turns “the great unraveling” into an anthem calling on everyone to join in an effort to rebuild our world.

The opening lines of that first song are:

Here in the great unraveling,
So much of this is baffling.
When breathing feels like gambling,
Nowhere to go but here.
Things come together then fall apart.
We gather up our broken hearts,
And endings are just a place to start,
And so we start again.

We’re gonna climb this ladder rung by rung.
We’re gonna count our blessings one by one.
It’s gonna take a little grace and luck,
‘Cause baby it’s a long way up,
Baby it’s a long way up. 

“You’ve turned this into a kind of anthem,” I told Carrie. “In the chorus, when you call us to ‘climb this ladder rung by rung,’ it’s really stirring! What makes you so hopeful?”

“In a time of great unraveling, there is also a great opportunity,” she said. “As we put the pieces back together again, we can choose how we do that. We can choose how to weave our threads back together again, hopefully with a little greater awareness of where the fabric had always been a little weak.

“I understand that the pandemic is not over. I understand that we are all in a time of great suffering. I lost family members to this. I understand the pain,” she continued. “But at the same time, this is an opportunity. I do a lot of work with Parker Palmer and he talks about the possibilities when our hearts break. He says that, when our hearts break, they can shatter and wind up going in every direction like shrapnel. But there is another possibility. Our hearts can break open and, in the process, can become more open to the world. I hope that this can be a time when our hearts break open so that we are receptive in new ways.”

‘You’re just like Molly Brown’

Click on this photo of Carrie Newcomer to visit her own website, which is full of fascinating resources.

Carrie’s interplay with Parker Palmer shapes a lot of her work. In the new album, one of Parker’s casual texts to Carrie wound up inspiring an entire song about resiliency. They were sharing updates about Carrie’s work on creating new options for online streaming of high-quality music. She was texting him about the potential of online streaming.

Parker texted back: “You’re just like Molly Brown. You just keep rowing.” Molly Brown was the famous passenger on the Titanic who helped other passengers board lifeboats, eventually took an oar herself and, after she returned home, helped to raise funds for families devastated by the sinking.

“So, that text from Palmer was in my mind when I went for a long walk and I started singing about her—until that song became an homage to women who have rolled up their sleeves and who showed us the power of resilience,” Carrie said.

Between the song’s four stanzas, she breaks into a refrain that sounds like a full-force, revival-tent call to spiritual resilience. Here is the opening stanza and refrain:

I’m gonna row my boat like Molly Brown,
Picking up an oar, when the ship went down.
When she made it home, Molly kissed the ground,
I’m gonna row my boat like Molly Brown.

Pull and rest, pull and rest.
Do your best, not more or less.
Rest and pull, pull and try.
Keep asking why
‘Til we all meet on the other side.

Throughout Carrie’s new album and book of poetry, she celebrates the power of song—calling all of us to put our oars into the choral waters and row together.

Singing for our lives and communities

At ReadTheSpirit, we certainly are a part of that chorus. In fact, our publishing house has a number of books that celebrate the joys of singing. There’s an entire chapter about the importance of singing in Benjamin Pratt’s book, A Guide for CaregiversHere is how Benjamin describes the power of song in the opening of his chapter:

Music and singing have amazing restorative power in our lives. Like theater and art, music sends us soaring into new realms of the spirit while we are still grounded in our daily lives. When our daily lives are weighed down by onerous, exhausting tasks, music and dance can restore—even heal—something deep in our soul.

Throughout her career, Carrie has preached the same message. In her new book of poetry that accompanies the Until Now album, she writes an entire ode to singing. It begins this way:

Songs were never meant to be left
To “the professionals.”
Never mind the person who long ago shamed you
Or the church choir member who told you to
Just mouth the words.
Don’t worry if your i’s are dotted
And your t’s are crossed,
Or your pitches are perfectly placed.
Trust me,
If you spend today singing,
If you start by
Humming in the shower,
Then whistling while picking out carrots,
Or singing as you wash dishes,
Or walk in the woods,
Or cross at the traffic light,
You might just begin to feel
Your True Heart
Open.

And there’s that theme, often shared by Carrie and Parker Palmer, popping up again: When our hearts break, one new possibility is that, by breaking open, we may welcome the world around us in new ways.

“There are so many things happening in our world right now in such a small window of time,” Carrie said. “Beyond the pandemic, we are in a time of political upheaval, climate change and we are in the midst of a great racial reckoning, which is long in coming and has been long needed. That means: There are so many possibilities of what we might do next!

“Yes, there is pain. Yes, there is tragedy. But, if we stand back and think about it, life is like a great big ocean-going ship and it’s hard to shift the direction of that ship unless something big happens—and right now there are a lot of big things happening. This is an opportunity for all of us to shift our ship’s direction. Right now, while the pandemic continues, I hope that we can do the inner work that will inform and transform our outer work in the world. I hope that we can shift as communities and as a country and all around the world. As I say this, I think about lines in one of my new songs, When the Wolf Is at the Door.”

Part of the song goes like this:

When the old world ends,
A new world starts.
What finally comes together
First had to fall apart.
I’ve been seeing things I thought I’d never see,
There once were four, but now there’s three.
Change comes slouching in, unnamed and unforeseen,
With a quiet voice or on soundless wings.
There’s a storm like I’ve never seen before,
Rumbling like a train, coming up through the floor.
We can’t just be healed, we must be transformed.
When the sky goes dark, and the wolf is at the door. 

.

Care to learn more?

GET THE NEW ALBUM and PAPERBACK. Amazon and other online retailers sell both Carrie Newcomer’s newest music—as well as her paperback book of poetry.

VISIT CARRIE’S HOME ONLINE. You’ll find lots more information and inspiring resources at www.CarrieNewcomer.com

ENJOY CARRIE’S PODCASTS WITH PARKER PALMER. They call their ongoing work together on this podcast The Growing Edge. “Parker Palmer and I started doing creative projects together for more than 15 years ago,” Carrie explains. “We’ve done a couple of spoken-word-and-music programs together. We’ve written and produced a song together. And we’ve created this monthly podcast that people can find wherever they like to get their podcasts. Before COVID, we were doing in-person retreats together on the topic: Where is your growing edge? The podcasts explore the inner work and the outer work that can happen when we step up to our growing edges. We’ve had some wonderful guests on our programs and I’m very grateful that we were able to continue doing these podcasts throughout the pandemic. If you enjoy the podcasts, you will find that some of the songs on the new album relate to those conversations.”

.

.

Rochelle Calvert invites us into the spiritual solace of ‘Healing with Natue’

Rochelle Calvert leading a retreat prior to the pandemic.

.

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

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

After nearly two years of pandemic, simply opening the door to the outside world and gathering with others may seem like a daring step.

For years, Rochelle Calvert had been leading groups of pilgrims into spiritual encounters with the natural world, then her own plans for gatherings were hit by COVID concerns. Now, she is inviting all of us to get a taste of these adventures through her new book, Healing with Nature: Mindfulness and Somatic Practices to Heal from Trauma.

Plus, Rochelle has added free audio meditations, and there are  opportunities to meet her and join in her future programs. Of course, she charges for those in-person programs.

This is a good time to discover Rochelle’s work, because she is moving once again toward building a schedule of her signature in-person retreats. She is moving her home base this autumn to Taos, New Mexico—from which she plans to travel to her retreat sites across the Western states in coming years. She currently is booking guests for a November 19-23 retreat at Ghost Ranch, which once was artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in New Mexico.

(Note to readers: This is a good time to share this cover story with friends who might also be interested in Calvert’s work. You can do so by using the social-media links on this page, or even by printing out this story to share using the green “PrintFriendly” button at the end. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a friend who wants to read her book along with you and discuss it—or who might even want to go with you to Ghost Ranch.)

Rediscovering the Natural Roots of Our Faith

The central affirmation that Rochelle makes in her in-person work, her online teaching and in the pages of this book is that each of us can discover our own spiritual pathway toward healing with nature.

“I firmly believe that people need to be free to explore the spiritual paths that will bring them emotional, psychological and physical healing, so I am not trying to direct people into any one faith tradition,” Rochelle said in an interview about her book. “I want to help people to increase their capacity to experience their own faith.”

This approach is possible because all of the world’s religious traditions ultimately rest on truths that are drawn from the natural world and that continue to call followers to connect with the planet.

In 2015, Pope Francis wrote an entire encyclical on this theme, Laudato si’ (On Care for Our Common Home). The letter was so timely that the Vatican’s website crashed shortly after its release because so many people around the world wanted to read Francis’s message. Both Francis and Rochelle start by pointing out the same central dilemma. The pope begins his letter by addressing both the trauma humans are inflicting on the planet—and the trauma humans are experiencing in our own hearts, minds and spirits. The two are eternally related, he argues.

Similarly, Rochelle devotes her entire book to encouraging healthy responses to our collective trauma through a deepening relationship with the natural world. Rather than a lone voice crying in the wilderness, Rochelle’s new book is part of a global chorus, now.

And yet, in a number of ways, her approach also is unique.

Healing Our Many Forms of Trauma

Rochelle certainly is not alone in zeroing in on “trauma” as one of the central sources of the anxiety, conflict and violence we experience daily in our communities. For example, over many years our online magazine has recommended books by Dr. Robert J. Wicks; most recently his The Tao of Ordinariness was the subject of a cover stories. Then, Mindy Corporon, author of Healing a Shattered Soul, is now devoting her professional efforts to Workplace Healing, a project to assist employers in responding to the many traumas experienced in the lives of their employees.

So, then, why are we so strongly recommending Rochelle Calvert’s book and her ongoing work?

Because she is charting new territory with her series of outdoor retreats that take participants to many different locations around the West—as well as adapting those practices to outdoor experiences that readers can develop at home or close to home. As a writer and teacher, she is always thinking about adaptive strategies. She’s a fresh and compassionate voice.

The stories in the pages of her book ring true, because she has distilled them from her own, unique, real-world experiences.

She also is solidly grounded in her field. In the book, Rochelle defines “trauma” in terms summarized from leading international sources. You could find a similar definition, for example, in books by Dr. Wicks. Here is an example in Rochelle’s words, from page 2 of her book:

Traumatic experiences come in many different forms. The psychological community has classically defined traumatic events as including natural disasters, serious accidents, terrorist acts, war, combat, rape and other violent personal assaults. But trauma also can arise from experiences of loss of control, like medical trauma (including life-threatening illness, surgeries and childbirth) and the loss of a loved one. Betrayal, racism, bullying, abuse of power, helplessness, political unrest, pandemics and the climate crisis may also be traumatic experiences for an individual or a society.

In our interview, Rochelle explained, “Through my work and now through this book, I hope that people can learn to wake up and heal from trauma. To help people become healthier, I am encouraging spiritual practices with nature. I’m hoping that people begin by tasting these experiences and that they go on to develop their own unique way of healing through reciprocity with nature.”

In fact, as her book explains, the complex and timeless forces within the natural world can teach us a great deal about resiliency and recovery from trauma. In her opening pages, for example, she describes how the living creatures within the natural world try to regenerate after a disaster. Those regenerative forces often spring from the heart of that trauma.

In her book, she writes:

This is where the wisdom of the natural world can help. Nature has an intrinsic tendency to thrive, and it always works with and toward a traumatic or difficult experience to find a new way of being and restore health. We can see this in the way a tree grows back after a limb is torn off by the wind, or a tiny patch of grass grows up through a crack in concrete.

In 16 chapters across 288 pages, then, Rochelle lays out many of the principles she has found effective in her work with people over the years.

As a powerful bonus, she also adds links to audio meditations that readers of her book can download to enhance their reading experience.

THE AWARENESS OF A CAREGIVER

Over the years, our ReadTheSpirit magazine office has received dozens of review copies of new books about sources of spiritual renewal that humans can find in nature. After all, the idea stretches all the way back to the first book of the Bible, as Pope Francis points out.

What makes Rochelle’s book distinctive within this ongoing flow of books? One welcome feature of Rochelle’s book is that she writes with a veteran caregiver’s concern for readers who are not in perfect health. Countless other books seem to assume that readers are fit and flexible and capable of tackling all manner of outdoor activities. Within the opening sections of Rochelle’s book, she makes a point of stressing that not everyone is capable of every experience.

In a section called “Challenges of Attending to the Breath,” for example, she takes time to address readers who may have breathing concerns, including asthma. This may seem like a simple point, but this kind of real-world compassion for the wide range of our physical bodies is rare in such inspirational books. In a section on “Body Awareness,” Rochelle takes time to encourage readers to approach the ideas she is sharing with “an attitude of kindness and compassion” toward the limitations of our bodies.

‘TASTING WHAT IS POSSIBLE’

“This concern that you are picking up in my book is intentional and I’m glad you’re highlighting it,” Rochelle said in our interview. “For example, I’m a huge proponent of building from small steps until we gradually build up our capacity for some of these bigger experiences. Especially if people are working toward healing from challenging experiences in their lives, like trauma, then we don’t want to start by trying to sit with that in meditation for two hours right out of the gate. That’s probably going to flood us, to overwhelm us and to cause turmoil.

“What I’m encouraging is that people begin by tasting what is possible, like tasting the fruit of new life,” she continued. “We might even start with just five minutes of stepping outside into nature and opening our sensory doors to nature—and that short experience may start a ripple effect that can build day after day. We often undervalue how beneficial even short periods of time can be, especially if we welcome them, build on them and let them take their course in our lives.

“With small increments, we can move from that first tasting to build, day by day, toward real change in our lives and real healing.”

.

Care to Learn More?

GET THE BOOK (and the links to audio meditations that are in the book). Healing with Nature: Mindfulness and Somatic Practices to Heal from Trauma is available from Amazon and other online retailers.

VISIT ROCHELLE’S WEBSITE. In our interview, Rochelle explained that some sections of her website, NewMindfulLife.com, will be updated through this autumn—but the website does contain a wealth of current information and resources. While some areas of the website still are being updated, one current page lists Rochelle’s upcoming schedule. The website also explains how to get in touch with Rochelle, how to sign up for some of her free content—as well as how to register and pay for future programs.

WATCH A BRIEF VIDEO:

 

 

 

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.

.

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.

.

KEN WHITT
and God Is Just Love

For information on the availability of this book, email us readth[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.

.

.

 

Questions about abuse and mental illness are urgent. That’s why Lucille Sider is on the road.

Lucille Sider, author of Light Shines in the Darkness, talks with Pastor Will Beverly at St. James Community Church in Chicago.

CHICAGO—Lucille Sider, author of Light Shines in the Darkness, talks with Pastor William Hall at St. James Community Church.

.

By LUCILLE SIDER
Author of Light Shines in the Darkness

Front cover of Lucille Sider's Light Shines in the Darkness

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

“Where should I seek help if I have been abused?”

“What are the similarities between the consequences of sexual abuse and mental abuse?”

“Are the police likely to listen to a person who has been abused—or are they prone to subtly suggest that you were inviting the abuse in some way?”

“Who can I call if someone I care about has signs of mental illness due to sexual abuse?”

These are just some of the questions people are asking as I travel to talk with groups about my own life story, as told in Light Shines in the Darkness: My Healing Journey Through Sexual Abuse and Depression.

Confronting Sexual Abuse:
As Urgent as Front-Page Headlines

Just open a newspaper or Google News any morning for headlines in this urgent national conversation about the long legacy of abuse as well as the challenges of mental illness. You don’t have to look far for headlines on Jeffrey Epstein, Larry Nasser, Jerry Sandusky and the coverup in many quarters of the Catholic Church. The ever-growing list includes famous (and previously unknown) women and men.

In particular, there are stunning numbers of women coming forward in front-page headlines with important accounts that have been hidden for years.

Inspired by the pioneers in the #MeToo movement (women including Alyssa Milano and Ashley Judd), others have now courageously told their stories (including Oscar-winning actress Sally Field and best-selling Christian historian Diana Butler Bass). Of course, all those are famous names.

Among the previously unknown women who have stepped forward is Col. Kathryn Spletstoser, who just went public this week with her report about sexual abuse by Gen. John Kyten. She went public, she says, because he is on the verge of confirmation as the military’s second-highest officer. It was Kyten’s nomination that finally prompted her to go public, she told The New York Times. Spletstoser is still in the midst of a deeply emotional national debate over her report. She was following in the footsteps of Senator Martha McSally who finally reported in March that she had been raped at the U.S. Air Force academy 30 years ago. McSally did not name her abuser, so side-stepped some of the furious push-back coming at Spletstoser from supporters of the general.

Whatever the outcome, there is simply no way to ignore the widespread problem.

As I point out in my book: “Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.”

Traveling and Talking about the Healing Journey

BINGHAMTON, NEW YORKLucille Sider talks at Tabernacle United Methodist Church.

So, I am traveling and talking about my story, my book—and the help that is available in many forms and from many sources. My journey can be both painful and inspiring.

I am on the road because I can tell from the people I meet that my message ultimately can be a catalytic moment helping many others along their own healing journeys.

For example, I gave a 50-minute overview of my book at Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Binghamton, NY. Among the key issues that I stressed were:

  • the relationship of sexual abuse and mental illness,
  • the devastating consequences when secrecy is maintained,
  • and, the psychological and spiritual practices that help me remain stable.

“It is important that you clearly understand that, while I say I am on a ‘Healing Journey’ in the subtitle of my book, I do not think of myself as ‘healed’,” I told the men and women who had gathered at Tabernacle.

“I think of myself as ‘stable’, but that depends on maintaining many practices, which I describe in the book,” I said.

Searching for Stability after Abuse:
Bringing Many Practices Together

I listed some of the disciplined practices that bring stability:

  • taking psychiatric medication,
  • practicing meditation,
  • receiving psychotherapy,
  • attending church
  • and, spending considerable time in nature.

“Even with all of this, I still suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD,” I said.

Following the presentation I answered many questions, including some of those I have listed above. I urged people to consider talking about these issues with friends. They could begin by using the Study Guide that is included in the book.

The audience not only gave a long applause but many also bought my book and were eager to have me sign it. I was deeply moved by the experience—and I could tell many of them were, as well.

A New Calling:
Helping Others to Confront Legacy of Abuse

On July 7, I was back in the Chicago area, where I live. This time, I spoke at St. James Community Church, which is largely African American. I was interviewed by Pastor William Hall at the beginning of the worship service.

“How did you come to write your book?” he asked.

“It wasn’t my idea,” I said. A friend who knew my story asked if she could produce a play about me and, when we sought professional advice about this, we were advised that my story really should be presented in a book first. That started me on the long process of writing Light Shines in the Darkness, which was published earlier in 2019.

“The found that the writing was very healing for me,” I told the congregation.

As I do in the pages of this book, I not only told my own story at St. James—but was able to step back and analyze it from my perspective as a clinical psychologist and clergywoman.

I can already see from the reception of this book that the whole process is becoming a new “calling” or “mission” to share the story as a doorway for others to move toward healing.

At the end of our time together, the pastor asked if he could pray for me. Of course, I agreed. Then, I realized that the whole congregation was literally reaching out to me, both audibly and physical reaching out to share in the pastor’s fervent prayer.

I left feeling refreshed and inspired, knowing that this congregation was praying for me and thus enabling me to carry out the mission to which I have been called.

.

Care to Learn More?

GET THE BOOK—Lucille’s book is available from Amazon in Paperback or Kindle, as well as in a Hardcover edition. Prefer to shop at Barnes & Noble? They’ve also got the Paperback and Hardcover.

DISCUSS THE BOOK WITH FRIENDS—There’s a free Discussion Guide included right in the book, plus information about national resource groups, websites and hotlines.

CARE TO SCHEDULE AN APPEARANCE? Visit Lucille’s Resource Page for Light Shines in the Darkness, which is part of our Front Edge Publishing website.

Clinical psychologist and clergywoman Lucille F. Sider 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. She is an ordained minister by the First Congregational Church, Evanston, Illinois. 
Lucille was Executive Director of The Samaritan Pastoral Counseling Center in Evanston, Illinois. While there, she was licensed as a clinical psychologist and became a Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. Lucille is now retired but remains active as a volunteers in the Lighthouse program at Edgewater Presbyterian Church in Chicago and also at two retirement communities, focusing on people with memory disabilities. She also is a popular speaker, writer, teacher and workshop leader.