Toast New Year 2024 with 10 Resolutions Guaranteed to Light Up This Dark Winter

In 2023, Laura Elizabeth participated in an author event at a winery in her part of the U.S. We thought this photograph from that event was a perfect way to illustrate both the New Year’s spirit—and the bright spirits our authors spark through their books. (Curious about that winery event? Here’s that news story from August.)

In 2024, start reading and you’ll find your spirits lifting!

Consider these 10 Resolutions from our Authors

For our 2024 New Year’s issue of ReadTheSpirit online magazine, we are sharing some New Year’s Resolutions from our nationwide community of authors. We did not have to ask these writers to send us “new” resolutions—because virtually all of our authors hope their books will make our world—and our lives—just a little better. That means—in the pages of their books—they’re offering readers wisdom about everything from finding happiness to peacemaking.

And, you’re right. That natural instinct to help readers makes these authors’ books very valuable. All you have to do is get a copy—and start reading—to find your spirits lifting. AND, as you read the following Resolutions—consider how timely these suggestions are today in 2024, even though some of them were expressed years ago.

If you agree, please share this column with friends this week via social media or email. That simple act of sharing this column might surprise you with the appreciation you’ll receive in response!


1.) Befriend a stranger.

The Story: In 2023, Laura Elizabeth proved that the heart of a popular cozy mystery is not the crime itself—it’s the circle of friends who come together to help their community get through that crisis. That’s why there’s not a dry eye among Laura’s readers when a little boy named Jacob says in her novel’s final pages: “I don’t usually have a lot of friends, but I really hoped it might be true here.”

The New Year’s Resolution: In 2024, reach out to someone who might otherwise remain a stranger in your workplace or community—and make a new friend.

To read more about Jacob—and the entire creative, lovable circle of friends on Mongin Island, get a copy of Laura’s All Is Now Lost: A cozy mystery rooted in the South Carolina Lowcountry

2.) Look for beauty in our differences.

The Story: For decades, interfaith peacemaker, educator and peace activist Brenda Rosenberg has been building bridges across some of the world’s widest and deepest chasms—including those that often separate Jews, Muslims and Christians.

The New Year’s Resolution: In 2024, pray that our senses will be attuned to look for beauty, not in the sameness of the people and cultures we already know—but in the differences we discover among our new friends.

To read more about how Brenda brings people together across these chasms—and to find Brenda’s entire page-length Prayer for Peace—get a copy of her Reuniting the Children of Abraham.


3.) Listen more than we talk.

The story: Throughout his long life as a pastor, counselor, teacher and author, Benjamin Pratt has emphasized that we discover far more when we listen carefully to others, before sharing our own stories. In fact, in his popular Guide for Caregivers, Ben writes an entire chapter titled Talking Honestly; Listening Intently, which includes this sage advice: “The number one attribute and gift of a good listener is not the ear—it is the heart. A good listener has a loving, hospitable heart.”

The New Year’s Resolution: May we listen with an open heart more often than we rush to speak.

To read more about Benjamin Pratt’s inspiring ideas for our nation’s millions of caregivers, get a copy of his Guide for Caregivers, a book full of interactive wisdom for those of us who serve our families and communities each day.

4.) Watch out online this year!

The story: The “Dean of Jewish preachers” Rabbi Jack Riemer has preached scores of “new year” sermons at Rosh Hashanah throughout his long career leading congregations and teaching other Jewish leaders the craft of preaching and creative writing. In one of his most popular New Year’s sermons, Jack reminds people that we all too often abandon our best hospitable instincts when we log into our computers. He offers a prayer that says in part: “May we live as human beings who are created in the image of God, and not as creatures that are made in the image of the machine.” Wow! That’s a pretty insightful prayer, isn’t it?

The Resolution: As Jack himself puts it—in 2024, “may we guard our tongues—and guard our mice!”

To read more about Jack’s best holiday sermons—including the entire prayer for guarding our lives online—get a copy of his Finding God in Unexpected Places: Wisdom for Everyone from the Jewish Tradition.

5.) Try Writing Poetry

The story: Lucille Sider, the clinical psychologist and clergywoman who wrote a memoir about coping with deep-seated trauma, advises readers to turn to poetry to pour out some of our deepest pain, yearning and hope. “After writing a poem, a deep peace settles over me,” she writes.

The Resolution: Write a poem this year. (You may discover you like the feeling, whether anyone reads your poetry or not, and wind up writing many.)

To read more about Lucille’s remarkable resilience in living with trauma and resulting mental illness, get a copy of her memoir Light Shines in the Darkness.

6.) Pay attention to our ‘better angels’

The story: Many of our readers will recognize that phrase as one of Abraham Lincoln’s most enduring words of advice from his first inaugural address. That’s also one of the most powerful phrases stressed in Lincoln-scholar Duncan Newcomer’s book 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln believed that pausing to remember thankfully all that we have received in our lives is one of the surest ways to hear those “better angels” calling.

The Resolution: In 2024, pause before responding to a challenging situation—especially one that involves conflict—and listen carefully to those “better angels” who continue to speak to us, Lincoln said, through “the mystic chords of memory.”

To read more about the relevance of Lincoln’s wisdom for us today, get a copy of Duncan Newcomer’s 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln—and you may want to find inspiration this year with our entire array of “30 Days” books.

7.) Confront racism

The story: There’s no way to avoid racism in America, writes scholar and educator Anni K. Reinking in her memoir. That’s true, even though political leaders in some regions are trying to erase the subject from our public schools and other institutions. In her wise, personal account of navigating racial attitudes, Annie challenges readers to realize that there is no way to avoid these complex issues. So, she wisely asks: Why not make a positive commitment this year to learn more about what each of us can do to overcome racism?

The Resolution: Welcome opportunities to learn about race and racism in America.

To read more about Reinking’s story—and her helpful research about racial attitudes—get a copy of Not Just Black and White.

8.) Share hope with others

The story: Sharing love and hope “is not an option. It’s not a hobby. It’s our purpose here as we walk the earth.” That’s how Howard Brown closes his inspiring memoir, Shining Brightly, which shares true stories about everything from overcoming stage IV cancer—not once, but twice—and finding success as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur as well. “While it may sound like a burden, that call to spread love and happiness turns out to be the key to our own happiness as well,” Howard writes.

The Resolution: Each day, find a way to share hope in a loving way with someone you encounter.

To read more about Howard’s wisdom for resilience in the face of cancer, overcoming the huge challenges of entrepreneurship and building bridges of peace in our world today, visit Howard’s Shining Brightly website. There you’ll find a link to buy his book and—you’ll find links to his weekly podcast that has attracted an audience of thousands around the world.


9.) Connect with a congregation

The Story: As surprising as this sounds to many people, a quarter of a century of research around the world shows that connecting with a congregation on a regular basis is a powerful predictor of health and wellbeing. That’s due to four influences explained in the 10th chapter of our book Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging. Chapter 10 is simply titled “Connecting with a Congregation” and has turned out to be the most-shared chapter of that book, which was written through the collaborative efforts of more than a dozen experts from around the world.

The Resolution: Connect with a congregation of your choice.

To read more about these remarkable “gifts and challenges,” get a copy of Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of AgingOf course, that includes the very popular Chapter 10 and the details on those four influences that make most congregations centers of health and wellbeing.

10.) Remember—We’re ‘Always Arriving’

The story: This final, wise Resolution comes from the late Dr. Cheryl El-Amin, Ph.D., LMSW, who died in 2019. For many years, she and her husband Imam Abdullah El-Amin were two of the most important Muslim leaders based in Detroit. Beyond their beloved Muslim Center congregation in Detroit, the El-Amins both were involved in many interfaith organizations. This year, we also mourned the loss of Imam El-Amin, who followed his wife in death in March 2023. But, to remind us of their tireless commitment to peace, we still have some of Cheryl El-Amin’s wisdom in a collection of inspiring stories published under the title Friendship & Faith.

The Resolution: Never stop doing good work, even when we think we’ve done enough! (Cheryl El-Amin taught from the Quran that God wants us to: “Keep working hard, because … you never really arrive in life. You’re always arriving—G’d willing.”)

To read more about WISDOM’s remarkable collection of true stories about unexpected friendships, get a copy of the group’s book Friendship & Faith, subtitled: The WISDOM of women creating alliances for peace.



Consider the Courage of Celebrating Hanukkah with Jewish Families This Year

(Photo used with permission.)

With a worldwide rise in antisemitism,
the Hanukkah lights can become community affirmations

THIS WEEK, WE ARE WELCOMING TEN OF OUR MANY JEWISH WRITERSwho are sharing personal reflections on celebrating Hanukkah in 2023.

Of course, Jewish families know that Hanukkah is a relatively minor festival each year, heightened across the U.S. because of its proximity with Christmas. “It’s not the Jewish Christmas,” Jews tell non-Jewish friends each December. “Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom.”

And that’s why, this year, many non-Jews are adding—in the face of a horrifying rise in hate crimes: “Community affirmations of our Jewish neighbors are important, especially as we begin to see the lights of Hanukkah appear in windows.”

Since our founding in 2007, our publishing house has been proud to produce books with men and women from many different faith traditions, including two dozen Jewish writers. Over the past week, 10 of those Jewish writers sent us personal notes about the deep resonance of Hanukkah this year. Please, read this cover story and share it with friends as a way to spread a little peace and hope and affirmation of our religious diversity, this week. If you want to take a further step, we have added links to these authors’ books. Consider expressing your own affirmation of our religious diversity by giving a friend or loved one a book by one of these authors—or by purchasing one of their books for your own enjoyment.

Note: Spellings vary as writers refer to the holiday.

Rabbi Jack Riemer

Where is the miracle in the Hanukkah story? That the Jewish people have held onto the Hanukkah story for 2,100 years, transmitting it from generation to generation, in one country after another, when they had so many opportunities to abandon it; when they were offered both the carrot and the stick, rewards if they gave it up and threats if they did not; that the Jewish people held onto this holiday for 2,100 years—that is the miracle. And that we still have it now, that we are right now about to transmit it to the next generation, to those who will come after us—that is the miracle.

It is a miracle that more 20 centuries after the Hanukkah story happened, we are still here, still telling the tale, still transmitting it to a new generation which, in turn and with God’s help, will tell the tale to those who will come after them. Therefore, let us celebrate Hanukkah together this year, with a whole and a happy heart.

Rabbi Jack Riemer often is referred to as a “dean of preachers” among Jewish clergy, because he has taught and mentored so many of his colleagues. You can enjoy his most memorable holiday messages in his book, Finding God in Unexpected Places: Wisdom for Everyone from the Jewish TraditionHis newest book is Duets on Psalms.

Lynne Golodner

I agree that publicizing the miracle aspect of Hanukkah is even more important this year. In response to the catastrophic rise in antisemitism, especially since the Oct. 7th attack on Israel, I have pulled my Jewish star necklaces out of my jewelry box and started wearing them again. I’ve also gotten more involved in my synagogue and Jewish community. I believe the best way to combat senseless Jew-hatred is to be the proudest Jewish person I can be, publicly and privately—to infuse my life with Jewish practice and ritual.

And I am even more committed than ever to my author brand, which focuses on creating compelling Jewish characters. I’ve always lit a bunch of menorahs in the window every night of Hanukkah, and this year will be no different. What is different is that being Jewish is incredibly special, handed down over generations, a long legacy of prioritizing life, celebration and love. I am very proud to be Jewish!

Lynne Golodner is a leading journalist, author and educator who coaches other writers and creative professionals. Learn more at her website—and enjoy an example of her “compelling Jewish characters” in her new novel, Woman of ValorAmong her many books is an exploration of interfaith food traditions in The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads.

Rabbi Lenore Bohm

In my decades of celebrating Chanukah, I have never felt such a great need to see and relish the glowing lights of the Chanukah menorah. With deep longing, I seek to be reminded that we can create light in darkness and that we can increase light over time by lighting one additional candle for each of Chanukah’s eight nights.

It will certainly be a more solemn Chanukah celebration this year for many in the Jewish community. We remain shattered by the events of October 7 and anguished by violence that continues in and around our beloved Israel. We give thanks for the released hostages and pray that each one remaining in captivity will be reunited with family and friends before or during Chanukah. May Israel know true peace and security and may the Palestinian people gain freedom to choose worthy leaders who prioritize their people’s flourishing.

Rabbi Lenore Bohm is known as a pioneering Jewish leader, among the first women to be ordained. Today, she says, “I am thrilled that now there are over 1,500 women rabbis including almost 50 ordained under Orthodox auspices.” She also is known as a Jewish educator, including her book, Torah Tutor: A Contemporary Torah Study Guide.

Rabbi Joseph Krakoff

In the Chanukah story, a small group of individuals known as the Maccabees rose up to resist the Greek culture that was forcefully imposed on the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes during the 2nd century BCE. While some Jews willingly assimilated so they could more comfortably co-exist within the majority culture, a battle was waged by Jewish traditionalists to preserve the beautiful rituals and distinctive traditions that were the heart and soul of Jewish living. At the crux of the Chanukah narrative is the lesson that defending the right to practice Judaism freely and proudly is at the core of our ability to survive as a people. The eight-day holiday encourages and empowers each of us to do everything in our power to celebrate our differences while affirming the joy associated with being uniquely Jewish.

In this time of overwhelming challenge and struggle against growing antisemitism and the evil perpetuated on October 7 and every day since, we need to even more vigorously support and defend the Jewish right to practice freely in this country, in Israel and across the globe. May the brilliant lights of the Hanukkah menorah, this year more than ever before, remind us of our human responsibility to bring increased light into the world especially during our darkest days and when we all need to see and feel it the most.

Rabbi Joseph H. Krakoff is CEO of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network. He also is co-creator of Never Long Enough, a unique book about the end of life, along with artist Dr. Michelle Y. Sider. This “picture book” invites families to reflect on the milestones of life either before or after the death of a loved one.

Howard Brown

We are not alone. That’s the affirmation that runs throughout Jewish history and is a key part of the Hanukkah story that has been preserved and handed down to us through the millennia. This also is a central truth understood by survivors around the world—certainly by survivors of stage IV cancer like me as well as survivors of traumas in so many forms, especially now.

We are not alone.

As a lifelong volunteer in Jewish leadership, I have never seen our community so alarmed by the hundreds of antisemitic threats documented by law-enforcement officials—and the thousands more that pass without such official notice in communities across the U.S. and around the world. The alarming rise in antisemitism makes us especially aware and thankful for friends, neighbors and co-workers who express their support. As Jewish families set out our candles this year—and shine our light into the darkness of this world—it takes courage and commitment as we affirm religious freedom for all. Perhaps, this year, you can encourage a friend or neighbor by reminding them:

We are not alone.

Howard Brown is a two-time stage IV cancer survivor, an early Silicon Valley entrepreneur and an active interfaith peacemaker. Visit ShiningBrightly.comto join the thousands of listeners to his weekly podcast. And order a copy of his memoir, Shining Brightlyfor friends who may need a bit of inspiration in this holiday season.

Suzy Farbman

Lighting candles on Chanukah is a way to celebrate and express gratitude for my ancestors and for 3,000-plus years of Judaism. With the amount of antisemitism currently being demonstrated worldwide, observing Chanukah this year is also a personal expression of solidarity for Jewish people everywhere.

Suzy Farbman is a nationally known journalist who is one of the most popular columnists in ReadTheSpirit magazine. She shares the inspiring and often funny story of her successful battle with cancer in GodSignsand celebrates her love of the fine arts in Detroit’s Cass Corridor and Beyond: Adventures of an Art Collector.

Bobbie Lewis

For me, Chanukah has a more poignant meaning this year, because the original Chanukah marked the victory of the Jews in Judea (an area that later came to be called Palestine) to be free from domination by the larger surrounding culture (the Assyrian Greeks). And so it is today. Israel is battling for the right to exist as a Jewish state—the only one in the world.

Bobbie Lewis—a past president of WISDOM and contributor to the Friendship & Faith collection (with a piece about Chanukah!)—is a retired public relations professional and a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News.

Joe Lewis

When I was young (in England) Chanukah wasn’t an orgy of presents to compete with Christmas. Instead, we kids would pay a visit to aunts and uncles and get a few coins as “Chanukah gelt”—Chanukah cash. Coins represent the independence of a sovereign nation, and the Maccabees minted their own currency, so coins are a reminder of our people’s independence long ago and—since the establishment of the State of Israel—the recovery of that independence.

Do today’s children know what coins are, I wonder? My schoolmates and I used to discuss the superiority of the twelve-penny shilling, so easy to divide by 2, 3, 4 and 6, over currency of other countries; we’d collect pennies from bygone kings and queens, every coin a history lesson; and a sixpenny bit or a threepenny bit in the hand conjured images of a spree at the sweet shop (candy store).

Joe Lewis is Bobbie Lewis’s husband and, among his many professional pursuits, taught generations of non-Hebrew-speaking men and women to enjoy a deeper participation in Jewish rituals, like the Passover seder, through his Singlish adaptations that he created and published. We thank Joe especially for his many years of support for our interfaith community of writers.

Rabbi Bob Alper

Our festival of lights comes at a time when we feel enveloped by the darkness of fear and overwhelming sadness. This year’s celebration of Chanukah reminds me of Rilke’s words: Even in the worst of times would you not still then have your childhood, that precious, kingly possession, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention thither. Try to raise the submerged sensations of that ample past.”

And so, for eight nights, as we light our menorah, for a few sweet moments I will once again be little Bobby Alper, standing in the dining room of our home at 89 University Avenue in Providence, our faded Chanukah banner hung across the door and warm orange candle wax dripping on my hand. For a few moments I’ll return to that chamber of happy expectation.

For a few precious moments.

Rabbi Bob Alper is the only practicing rabbi who tours nationally as a standup comic, famous for organizing interfaith comedy revues. You can enjoy more of Bob Alper’s wit and wisdom in his memoirs, Life Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This and Thanks. I Needed That.

Brenda Rosenberg

Celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem by the Maccabees (a group of Jewish rebel warriors) and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem is always a bittersweet time for me. My brother died on the first night of Hanukkah, 2020. My mother died on the last night of Hanukkah,1968. This year it will be even more emotionally challenging. October 7 in Israel was the most brutal attack on Jews since the Holocaust has left me shaken and fearful to be a Jew in America.

As I light the candles on the family menorah, the same Menorah I lit as a child, I will be praying for another miracle, a miracle of replacing hate with hope, and to creating healing. I pray my efforts with my friends from multiple backgrounds, religions and ethnic groups will bring a new level of understanding, to move from the ghosts and shadows from the past and heal our traumas, working together to create a new and viable future together.

Brenda Rosenberg is a peace activist and educator after a long career in retail marketing. Ironically, she is the creator of the original “Santa Bear” that swept the nation in the 1980s. Her commitment to interfaith peacemaking includes books, such as Reuniting the Children of Abraham and Harnessing the Power of Tension.

In 1955, Brenda Rosenberg (right) watches along with her brother Sanford Allen Cohen as their mother Belle Cohen lights the family menorah in their Detroit home.


Two good deeds in one: Please, give the gift of reading this holiday season.

Support Our Community of Authors while Shining Your Light in Our World

WHETHER YOU CELEBRATE HANUKKAH or CHRISTMAS—we know you’re looking for gifts for family and friends. This year, please consider a “double gift.” By that we mean: Giving “our books” not only will light up the lives of your loved ones, as they read, but your purchases also will help support our community of writers, whose creative energies flow through these books.

A Cozy Mystery that Celebrates Community

Since her cozy mystery debuted in September, Laura Elizabeth has been experiencing a community of love and creativity with her readers. In a series of public events this fall, readers have welcomed Laura with hospitality gifts, including—at one deliciously creative book event—cookies individually decorated with themes related to the famous island in her novel.

How can a cozy mystery spark such creative affection? As you can read in more depth in this earlier column, millions of Americans enjoy cozies for their focus on ordinary men and women coming together to solve mysteries that threaten the peace and safety of their hometowns. Yes, these are crime novels, but these tales are told in a way that invites readers to meet a circle of memorable friends.

In Laura’s case, that welcoming “hometown” is the real-life, historic Daufuskie Island off the Atlantic coast of South Carolina. In a news story published by Laura’s alma matter, Babson College, readers learned that Laura’s love of Daufuskie involves more than her fondness for a lovely island. As the Babson news story explains: “She would like her readers to fall in love with this island, visit the real Daufuskie and help in the overall effort to keep the island community alive and well.”

But don’t simply take our word for it that her novel is a “great read.” Laura already has 20 reviews on her novel’s Amazon book page that collectively average a glowing 4.2 out of 5 stars.

One reviewer writes: It’s a “great little mystery that keeps you engaged and wanting to know more about such a magical place.”

Another reviewer says: “When I read the opening pages, I was suddenly standing outside of Books & Brew, a new bookshop on the island. And with that—an ocean breeze and a bookshop on a lazy, laid-back island—I was hooked. The inspiration for this fictional island comes from the author’s many visits to Daufuskie Island, off the coast of South Carolina. I’ve heard of it and seen the signs for the ferry on my visits to Hilton Head, but never made it across the water to visit. Now I finally have, thanks to this Book No. 1 in Laura Elizabeth’s new mystery series.”

So, considering ordering Laura Elizabeth’s novel from Amazon in paperback or hardcover, right now.

Lessons in Resiliency that are More Timely than Ever

Click on these delicious cookies made to look like the cover of Howard Brown’s Shining Brightly to visit the book’s Amazon page.

There’s something very “tasty” about our newer books! We say that because Laura Elizabeth is not alone in discovering cookie-shaped representations of her book. Howard Brown also connected with a fan who created book-cover cookies to celebrate his inspiring memoir, Shining BrightlyWe shared that delicious story earlier.

But this book has an even more substantial set of lessons to share—especially as we approach Hanukkah, the festival of lights and religious freedom. Right now, readers around the world are discovering the very timely appeal of Howard’s book as war in the Middle East is driving the level of hate crimes—especially antisemitic crimes—to an all-time high. Howard’s role as a Jewish peacemaker—and as a veteran in grassroots organizing to build healthy interfaith relationships—is a practical model for all of us, whatever our faith may be.

In fact, his book comes with links to download free guides for individual reflection and group discussion on “Interfaith Bridge Building: Why do this work?” and “Mentorship: Why should we become mentors?” Given the level of violence and the rising tide of hate crimes against Jews as well as Arabs and Muslims, community leaders are searching for fresh resources to spark community conversations.

Of course, as our regular readers know: Rediscovering our resilience comes in many forms. Howard also is internationally known as a two-time stage IV cancer survivor so his memoir is a burst of bright light for any friend or family member facing those fears right now.

Once again, don’t simply take our word for it! Since his book was published, Howard has been welcoming what he calls “raving fans” who express their enthusiasm by sending him photographs of themselves holding the book that has inspired them. Here’s an earlier story we published about that.

So, please consider ordering Shining Brightly from Amazon in paperback or hardcover, right now.

Click on this photo of George A. Mason enjoying ‘The Word Made Fresh’ to visit the book’s Walmart page.

A Year of Inspirational Reading

When a Child is born—a ray of hope flickers across the sky.” So begins one of the first chapters in George A. Mason’s inspiring new The Word Made Fresh: Preaching God’s Love for Every Bodyavailable in paperback and hardcover from Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Amazon and other retailers as well.

For the world’s more than 2 billion Christians, each “year” begins not in January but with Advent, the season of Christmas—so it is appropriate that one of the Rev. George A. Mason’s most memorable Christmas Eve sermons appears in the opening pages of this collection.

For three decades, Mason’s weekly messages have inspired those who attend Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, as well as George’s followers nationwide. Now, this unique multimedia book collects 80 of George’s most memorable and thought-provoking sermons along with links to videos of many of them. This collection covers timely themes ranging from the welcoming love of God and the basics of the Christian faith to such vital issues as the stewardship of our planet, the importance of interfaith relationships, the need to include the most vulnerable in our community life, and the importance of peacemaking.

Greg Garrett, another best-selling Christian author, writes in his preface, “George Mason is one of the Christian world’s most accomplished preachers and pastors. A writer, teacher, activist, and media figure, during thirty-plus years as senior pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, he modeled a Christian love of and advocacy for the marginalized, the disdained, the set aside, that feels absolutely like the Jesus I know, love, and serve.”

Care to learn more? In June, we published this story about the many friends of George A. Mason who contributed to organizing and publishing this book.

So, please consider ordering The Word Made Fresh: Preaching God’s Love for Every Body in paperback or hardcover, right now.

Welcoming a Saint into our Midst

That’s what it feels like to read the story of the courageous Dr. Gustavo Parajón, whose life story is told in Healing the World.

We often refer to the global reach of our community of authors—and their inspiring books. That’s certainly true of Healing the World. Confirmation of that worldwide impact came earlier this year when we received a salute from the esteemed 160-year-old Church Times in London.

We have known—since co-authors Daniel Buttry and Dámaris Albuquerque approached us about this project—that a major biography of international peacemaker and public-health pioneer Gustavo Parajón would bring much-needed good news in our troubled world.

“This long-awaited biography charts his achievements … and has real value in bringing his life of selfless dedication to public notice,” the Rev. Malcolm Doney wrote in his Church Times review of the book. Downey is well known in the UK as an author and a contributor to BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought and Radio 4’s Something Understood. He also has been involved in helping with the Greenbelt Festival, where Parajón spoke. In his review, Doney noted: “Parajón’s enhanced international profile brought visits from celebrities such as the singers Kris Kristoffersen, Bruce Cockburn, and Bono. Former-President Carter came, too. Parajón became a popular speaker at the Greenbelt Festival.”

In a world ravaged by crises, this inspiring biography of Nicaraguan public health pioneer and peacemaker Gustavo Parajón encourages readers to courageously reach out to the world’s neediest people. From his family, Parajón inherited a deep Christian faith that made him a fearless example of how to navigate dangerous conflicts and public health crises. Gustavo described his mission as simply following the example of Jesus, but he did so in a unique, tireless and effective way.

Care to learn more? We published this story about the many friends of Gustavo Parajón who contributed to organizing and publishing this book.

So, finally, please consider ordering Healing the World in paperback or hardcover, right now.

Where can we find St. Nicholas this December? Try the Virginia Theological Seminary

World’s Largest St. Nicholas Database Is Moving

Virginia Theological Seminary’s exhibit is ready for the December 6 Feast of St. Nicholas …

… followed by a December 17 dedication

Editor of ReadTheSpirit Magazine

Because our Front Edge Publishing is based in Michigan, we have enjoyed a bit of home-state pride in Carol Myers’ creation of the world’s largest St. Nicholas database, operating out of her home in Holland, Michigan. So, each year, it’s a ReadTheSpirit tradition to publish a story—well before St. Nicholas Day on December 6—reminding readers to visit the online resources Carol has compiled at the St. Nicholas Center website. Her Center is packed with fun for history buffs, church leaders, teachers, parents—and anyone who wants to learn more about the global impact of the saint behind our pop-culture Santa Claus.

Her Center even shares tasty recipes—and we know that our readers love a good recipe!

This year, we are joining with the Myers—both Carol and also her husband, the best-selling author of psychology textbooks David Myers—as they are celebrating their historic effort to move all of these St. Nicholas resources to a permanent, endowed home at the Virginia Theological Seminary.

St. Nicholas: ‘A Subversive Saint … of Justice’

This is a project as big as the database itself and it contains many moving parts that have been unfolding over the years.

And, first, to reassure our readers who know Carol personally and have interacted with her over the decades: Don’t worry! Carol isn’t leaving her role at the helm of the website immediately. She and the Virginia Theological Seminary team are planning a multi-year transition.

This week, Carol explained some of those moving parts for us. In a Q&A interview about this momentous move, she said:

The partnership with VTS has three parts: 1) the website, 2) the “Who Is St. Nicholas?” Exhibit, and 3) the St. Nicholas Faith & Justice Center.

The Faith & Justice Center is still in the formative stage. The director will be the soon-to-be-appointed Professor of Ethics. St. Nicholas, I always say, is a subversive saint. Folks think he’s about sentimental gift-giving. He’s actually about justice—particularly for the vulnerable and oppressed. His stories and legends relate to contemporary justice issues: human trafficking, hunger, mass incarceration, death penalty, inequality. The center will help form students and others for advocacy, familiarize students with Episcopal Church resources (such as Episcopal Relief & Development, the Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, Episcopal Public Policy Network) and beyond (such as Bread for the World), and take advantage of the seminary’s proximity to our nation’s capital.

The website has grown beyond anything I could have imagined back when it launched in 2002. Each year, I get correspondence from many of the million-plus visitors to our website. People ask all kinds of questions! St. Nicholas experts in Europe tell me my site is where they send people to learn about St. Nicholas. So many artists, writers, photographers, and others have shared their material, making the site as rich as it is.

I would have run out of new ideas years ago. I’ve worked hard to provide appropriate material for people across the Christian spectrum; the site serves Catholics, both Roman and Eastern Rite, Orthodox, Anglicans and other Main-line Protestants, and more conservative Evangelicals, too. It’s been an amazing and rewarding journey.

Finding a ‘middle way’ to bring our world’s people together

I asked Carol why she and David chose Virginia Theological Seminary for this generous, endowed gift and she replied that this was a relationship that had grown over time—and seemed especially fitting because the seminary already has an extensive digital outreach.

Carol said:

Virginia Theological Seminary does, I believe, more with digital formation of this kind than anyone else, anywhere.

We chose VTS also because the Episcopal Church offers a “middle way” that is accessible to Christians across a broad spectrum. That’s important to me as the site’s visitors come from across the whole Christian spectrum. Plus, I’m also an Episcopalian so it is a place that’s “home” to me, too. Most importantly, their warm embrace of this idea was an enormous joy and relief.

I also know these resources are in stable hands. VTS, unlike so many seminaries today, is secure financially, focused on the future, not on survival. It has just completed celebrating its bicentenary with a completely renovated campus, positioned to lead in the future.

The way the Dean and President Ian Markham has embraced St. Nicholas for the seminary is beyond anything I could have ever hoped or dreamed. My St. Nicholas has found a home there that goes way beyond just the website itself. I can’t say enough how significant and wonderful this is.

The exhibit answers the question: ‘Who is St. Nicholas?’

Carol described the exhibit this way:

Our St. Nicholas Exhibit opened at St. James Cathedral, Chicago, in 2008. The museum-quality exhibit was meant to be traveling, though due to size and expense it didn’t travel very much. VTS hosted the traveling exhibit in 2019 to kick-off our partnership for the website. When the exhibit was there, they fell in love with it and decided to find a way to have it permanently installed at the seminary. It is now in the completely renovated Welcome Center.

Dean Ian Markham said, “Unlike a generic Welcome Center found at other graduate schools, this one seeks to reflect the distinctive values of VTS. As one admires the extraordinary exhibits, the guest learns that this is a place focused on the Incarnation. Both exhibits are linked with Christmas. We are a Christmas people trusting that God is made manifest in the babe from Bethlehem.” The Welcome Center also has a creche gallery.

The exhibit, “Who Is St. Nicholas?” tells the St. Nicholas story with text and artifacts from all over the world. It shows him as a saint, introduces his stories and legends, shows how he’s celebrated around the world through faith traditions and folk customs.

It also illustrates Santa’s development. There are hands-on activities for all ages—rubbings, miter-folding and St. Nicholas symbol puzzle pieces for younger visitors. An interactive panel identifies the 32 stories depicted in a large story icon painting. The exhibit is fun, festive and educational for all ages.

Here’s another webpage where your readers can see a few more of the items in the exhibit.

Why did the Myers decide St. Nicholas should make this major move?

Carol said:

When we reach a certain age it’s necessary to make plans for the future. I really wanted the resources that make up St. Nicholas Center to continue to be available for families, churches, and schools.

I’m 80 now and it was important to try to find a home for the site that would give it an ongoing, secure future. The site launched in 2002 and I figured I’d do it through my 60s, not sure I’d want to continue in my 70s. Well, as I was approaching the end of my 70s I knew it wouldn’t be wise to assume that I’d want or be able to keep on in my 80s. That said, I’m not yet ready to give up the site—there’s still so much to do! Recipes to make and photograph, crafts to add, churches to find, code to clean up before handing it over, and more.

December 17 VTS Dedication in Alexandria, Virginia

Finally, Carol explained:

Sunday, December 17, 2023, is the dedication and blessing date—and, yes, David and I will be there along with a number of folks that have been instrumental, helpful, and supportive over the years.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is giving a lecture on The Way of Love, the Bishop of Virginia, Mark Stevenson, will do the dedication and blessing in the Welcome Center, followed by a service of Lessons and Carols in Immanuel Chapel.

Duncan Newcomer on: What can Lincoln teach us about bridging the chasms in American culture?

Author of 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln: Quiet Fire

This is the book that participants in the 2023 Braver Angels conference will see displayed at the bookstore, this week. Click on this cover image to visit the book’s Amazon page.

My heart is with the Braver Angels convention in Gettysburg this week. Over 600 people in this growing movement are meeting to extend their many programs to de-polarize American politics and practice.

They chose Gettysburg, because—as Lincoln’s Address explains—the Union victory there was the re-birth place of America. Much of the success of the Braver Angel movement comes from its Lincoln inspiration. The group originally was named Better Angels after the words from Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. Because another group already had claimed that name, they changed to Braver Angels.

Gettysburg speaks volumes as to how this is a home base for both teams, the red team and the blue team, and the convention is equally represented.

I have encouraged Braver Angels since their inception. Among my connections, beyond Lincoln, I was a Marriage and Family Therapist for many years trained in the very same perspectives and techniques used by Braver Angels. One of the Braver Angels co-founders is Bill Doherty, who created the Braver Angels approach to workshops. Bill is a Professor and Director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Just as I have throughout my life, Bill combines a background in family therapy and community engagement.

If you would like to learn more about Braver Angels, check out:

Looking to Lincoln may inspire us to compassionately look toward our neighbors

Here is what I’m doing to help in this movement toward compassionate reconnection with our neighbors.

While I was not able to attend the conference, this year, my contributions to the gathering include making sure that my 30-day book on Lincoln’s wisdom is present for conference participants in the bookstore. I also sent out an invitation to writers I’ve worked with over the years to send stories for this special issue of ReadTheSpirit magazine that coincides with the conference schedule.

The magazine’s Editor David Crumm suggested that we start this collection of columns with two of my own columns about Lincoln to set the stage for this array of reflections.

What were Lincoln’s hopes? In the first of those columns, which originally was broadcast over public radio in Maine, I invite listeners and readers to look at the courage and hope Lincoln brought to his First Inaugural, including the appeal to all Americans: “If I can have the same generous cooperation of the people of this nation, I think the flag of our country may yet be kept flaunting gloriously.”

What were Lincoln’s core values? In the second of those columns, we explore Lincoln’s core values, which mirror almost universally held values that Americans continue to share. In this column, you will find touchstones for bridging gaps you may find in your own community.

Then, other writers have contributed the following reflections on the many ways Lincoln’s legacy can help us become “better angels,” today:

Journalist and author Bill Tammeus writes about how Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address still calls us to reach out to one another.

Journalist and author Martin Davis asks: Are our battle-scarred American roads capable of carrying us toward unity?

Author and leadership coach Larry Buxton writes about: Growing up and growing wise with Abraham Lincoln

Columnist and editor Judith Pratt recalls: Hearing our Civil War stories shared generation to generation.

Attorney and community activist Mark Jacobs writes about: How Lincoln’s astonishing resilience and perseverance inspires me today

Remembering that holiday spirits range from fluffy, happy clouds to dark nights

“Happy” artist Bob Ross is more popular than ever as we cross into 2023! Amazon is selling Bob Ross calendars; is streaming 31 seasons of Bob Ross’s TV shows via its FreeVee service; and is selling Happy Clouds socks like the ones Ben Pratt enjoys.

For millions, the simple joys of the season are muted by somber memories.

Acknowledging those Dark Nights Helps with Healing

Author of A Guide for Caregivers

The setting—a restored 11th Century San Fedele Monastery, Chianti Region, Italy. We were gathered on a terrace with new acquaintances, wine, awaiting dinner before an evening of live jazz under the stars.

The socks—pale blue with puffy clouds, the words Happy Clouds, and the face of a smiling man with curly black beard and hair. I wore the socks because of their funky nature that contrasted with this unique setting and sterling location—suspecting they might break the ice and lead to an interesting conversation among strangers.

The results—far beyond my expectation.

Megan, a young woman, probably in her thirties, moved close and said, “You’re wearing Bob Ross socks.”

“I think you are correct,” I responded.

Her next words jolted me: “After my twin brother suicided, I tuned in to Bob Ross reruns every day because it was the only thing I could watch without crying.”

My immediate response, non-verbal, conveyed a look of compassion and concern. Then I said, “I would be very willing to hear more if you wish to tell me.”

She told me the bare bones reality that she suspected led to his decision, and then more about the devastating impact on her.

Perhaps you share the questions that flow from a conversation like that one: How do we travel this spiritual journey of grief? Or, how can we heal from a broken heart? As we approach the holidays we are mindful that grief is often more intense in this time of family gatherings when the absence of one can be most obvious.

First, I need to say that grieving takes far more time than we anticipate in our world of K-cup coffee and e-mail. The grieving process isn’t fast. The duration for grieving may be in direct proportion to the intensity of the loss, and, therefore, is quite personal. As Shakespeare tells us through Othello: “What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” The stages through which we must journey toward healing can be shock, anger, guilt, depression, bargaining, and then maybe healing acceptance.

Losses caused by sin, another’s violation of us or our violation of another, are the most difficult to heal because these involve forgiveness. Forgiveness is the ability to give up hope of a different past. It requires a different memory.

Options for surviving loss include burying yourself with your talents in the small room of safety or making a trusting leap of faith back into the unknown, just as Megan was doing by participating in JazZen Journey at San Fidele.

Do we stay on the bench or do we get back into the game?

Either way, it is a cost and a promise! We need to live into the hope that the risk is worth the promise of trust and joy.

Now, let me tell you a story from literature that illustrates the issue of loss and risking. (I suspect my choice of literature may surprise some of you.) This illustration comes from a novel, not from the movie which has little to do with the book. The writings of Ian Fleming, namely the James Bond, 007 series, are some of the most important religious narratives of the 20th century, in my opinion.

Listen as I tell you a story about loss and risking from James Bond. James Bond was married only once. His wife was shot and killed by Bond’s archenemy on the day of their wedding. Bond began to lose his edge. He didn’t show up for work; he began to deal with his loss by drinking and eating too much, gambling and losing his sense of mission. His boss, M, had Bond examined by a psychiatrist-neurologist named Sir James Malony who reported to M that Bond was in shock, and that his behavior was quite understandable. Then he says the thing that captured my attention: “We must teach them that there is no top to disaster.”

Everyone of us has a top to disaster.

It’s probably different for all of us: loss of a child, physical or psychological abuse, robbery at gunpoint, betrayal of a close friend, imprisonment, cancer, losing a pet, shaming oneself in front of friends. When we go over the top of our disaster limit, we are prone to reduce our world to a small, predictable, controlled safe place.

Risking our talents is the last thing we are prone to do—but that is what Sir James Malony prescribes. And then Sir James says an even more remarkable thing in response to M’s request of help for Bond. His answer is “We must give him an impossible job.”

In contrast to suggesting a month on a cruise liner, we hear that “he should be given an impossible job.” So M sends Bond on a mission to infiltrate and destroy a castle created for people who have lost faith in life, a castle where people can kill themselves. Bond himself could have been a candidate, since he had lost faith. Instead he is sent to risk facing and destroying it.

The man who created this castle of death is the same devil who killed Bond’s wife. By confronting and killing the devil of despair, Bond confronts his own despair and is on the road to healing his wounds. Yes, this is an allegory that is as much about the inner journey as the outer journey.

Let me be clear what I am not saying. I am not suggesting that we get ourselves off our own hands by attending to others or a larger mission. Turning outward can come after we have done the painful interior work of feeling loss. This is why most hospice programs will not accept volunteers who are not at least one year away from a significant death.

Eventually, however, the grief journey must include turning outward to heal the losses and grief in oneself, which feels like an impossible risk.

Perhaps real recovery takes place only when we take our own wound and turn it outward
to give generously and with gratitude to others.

Alfred Lord Tennyson said, upon the death of a close friend: “I must love myself into action lest I wither in despair.”

Henri Nouwen, the late Catholic priest shared that “the wound of Jesus is like the Grand Canyon, a deep incision in the earth’s surface that has become an inexhaustible source of beauty and meaning.” The wounds of Jesus have become a source of beauty for many.

Our wounds may become a source of meaning for others also.The pain can end and the healing take place when we take the beauty of our own pain and extend it as a gift to others. As their hurt is healed, so is ours.

My deep appreciation of music has a wide perspective. Willie Nelson wrote the following slow and sentimental song with his longtime co-producer, Buddy Cannon. The producer explained the genesis of this song lay in his overhearing Nelson consoling a friend who had lost a loved one.



Care to read more?

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

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

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

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




Inspiring gifts for Hanukkah and Christmas!

Give the gift of Wisdom, Hope and Resilience

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

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

Our 2022 holiday-shopping list starts with:

Torah Tutor—A Contemporary Torah Study Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Become an Ally of the Michigan State University Bias Busters

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

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

Among the top titles chosen by these regional offices were:

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

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

Two New Months of Inspirational Reading—

30 Days with America’s High School Coaches

And, 30 Days with E. Stanley Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction to Christian Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

Suzy Farbman tells us the story of …

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

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

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

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

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

Have you got an art lover on your shopping list?

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

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

‘Shining Brightly’

Personalize This Story of Resilience for Hanukkah or Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate our 10th anniversary with Visual Parables

Give yourself and friends a gift of Faith & Film

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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