When readers share our stories with others, we know we’re touching lives far and wide.
AS WE DO ON THE LAST MONDAY OF EACH YEAR, we look back across our previous 51 issues and we highlight 10 stories that really got our readers talking in 2023! Please, enjoy this year’s annual Top 10 list—and remember to keep sharing these inspiring and thought-provoking stories with friends as we move into the New Year 2024. Through such sharing, we increase the hope, wisdom and good news that flows across social media and circles our globe.
(And, if you read to the end, you’ll find a bonus story that you won’t want to miss!)
A Call to Remember the Most Vulnerable
On the first day of 2023, we touched on a major theme of our publishing house: The need to spread awareness and encourage compassion for the most vulnerable families living among us. Author Henry Brinton contributed our New Year’s Day 2023 column, headlined: Marking the Centennial of the Rosewood Massacre: Remembering our past prepares us to build a healthier future.
After Henry’s story appeared, we received an ongoing series of emails from readers who appreciated knowing about this important centennial observance. We also heard from a number of pastors who told us they followed up by highlighting the Rosewood centennial for their congregations either in prayers, in sermons or in columns they wrote for their local newsletters. Thanks, Henry, for starting 2023 with this stirring story!
Our online magazine also is trying to revive awareness of another valuable, historic story—the resilient and hope-filled life of entrepreneur Roger Babson. Largely forgotten in today’s media culture, Roger Babson once had a global following for his newspaper columns, public lectures and books.
The main reason people remember him today is that the college Babson founded continues to rank No. 1 in the U.S. for entrepreneurial education—and because author Howard Brown’s memoir Shining Brightly adds a fresh spotlight on Babson’s truly unique approach to coping with the world’s many problems. In early 2023—shortly after we published the somber story about the legacy of Rosewood—we published this cheery story about Roger Babson, headlined: Try carrying ‘Hope’ with you, each day—Roger Babson built a ‘Good Cheer Library’ on that principle. Many readers enthusiastically shared that story with friends. The late Mr. Babson surely was smiling down on all of us!
And speaking of coping with global challenges, in early 2023 we published a new biography, Healing the World—Gustavo Parajón, Public Health and Peacemaking Pioneer. The story we published at the launch of this inspiring book began with these words:
In an era when a Russian dictator can declare a war that kills thousands—and when angry political factions around the world routinely touch off deadly violence—millions of us are wondering: Is there a better way to live? Indeed, there is: We can look to the life of Gustavo Parajón (1935-2011), a Nicaraguan doctor and pastor who became so well known around the world for his peacemaking efforts that U2’s Bono once disguised himself so that he could quietly slip into a gathering of people listening to one of Parajón’s talks in the UK.
We were especially proud of the way the production of this book brought together peacemakers from Central America, the U.S. and the United Kingdom—who contributed in various ways to creating and promoting this book.
The Rev. George A. Mason’s new book The Word Made Fresh landed in our world with a considerable impact—spurred along by George’s tireless work as a now-semi-retired pastor and full-time writer, teacher, media personality and interfaith peace activist.
This “story” of George’s ongoing work unfolded across more than a dozen feature stories, columns, videos and news items that we published in 2023. Here are several examples of the many ways George’s overall “story” touched our readers’ lives:
- From May: George A. Mason’s ‘The Word Made Fresh’ is an invitation to the warm embrace of faith for every body.
- From July: George A. Mason takes us to a very different kind of ‘Sunday Service’ complete with skateboards and fresh vegetables.
- And from the end of 2023: A Holiday Blessing from George Mason and Faith Commons
Clearly, George’s thought-provoking approach to Good News will continue into 2024. While it is obvious that “the Bible” can divide people—George A. Mason continues to preach that the Bible still can bring people together in life-giving ways.
Our publishing house team is proud of our collective work with a wide range of prophetic peacemakers like Gustavo Parajón and George A. Mason—and like our long-time friend and author Dr. David Gushee. Over the past decade, Dr. Gushee has become the leading Christian scholar arguing for the full inclusion of LGBTQ Christians in churches around the world. Then, in 2023, Gushee shifted his focus slightly to take aim at the rising tide of what often is referred to as “Christian Nationalism.” The “story” of Gushee’s activism extends far beyond our publications. Now, Dr. Gushee’s efforts are regularly featured in columns, podcasts and news stories around the world. Here are two of the stories we published in 2023 about his ongoing work:
- From February: Dr. David Gushee on the Importance of ‘Introducing Christian Ethics’ in an era of ‘Global Killers’
- From October: Dr. David Gushee joins historians and sociologists in warning against the dangers of Christian extremism
- And, on December 19 (as an illustration of his nationwide reach), he was one of the leading experts on “post-evangelicalism” quoted in The Christian Science Monitor.
In 2023, our first cozy mystery author, Laura Elizabeth, showed the world that readers love “cozy mysteries” because these novels often focus on entire communities coming together to help solve crises.
Just read some of the dozens of glowing reviews on Laura’s Amazon page to see how personally readers enjoy becoming part of Laura’s island community: “Laura Elizabeth made every character come alive for me. Can’t wait to visit them again in future books. I loved the bookstore and the delightful smell of the pies,” wrote one 5-star reviewer. In fact, some readers actually visited the real-life island on which Laura’s novel is based. One of them writes, “I started reading this in paperback form while staying at Daufuskie Island, SC, at a BnB. I got drawn in so quickly I needed an electronic copy so I wouldn’t have to put the book down.”
Here are several of the many columns, news items and updates we’ve published about Laura’s world in 2023:
From July: As Babson College tells us, Laura Elizabeth’s cozy mystery is about much more than suspenseful fun (Yes, like Howard Brown, Laura is a Babson graduate.)
A major news story in November was our collaboration with the popular online magazine The Reformed Journal in establishing a new Reformed Journal Books imprint. Our headline on that story aptly captures the theme: Our publishing house welcomes Reformed Journal Books, compassionate Christian voices of resilience and hope
As we broke that news, we reported: “To put it simply: This book and this new imprint represent the collective good work of a host of professionals who truly want to share hopeful stories in these troubling times. This is an exciting group of people to get to know through their upcoming books—and who want to actively engage with groups and congregations nationwide.”
In fact, even though Jeffrey’s book does not officially launch until late January 2024, he already is scheduling public appearances, discussion groups and a whole array of outreach with readers. Thanks to everyone who is sharing this news with friends in an ongoing way!
Over the past decade, there’s no author we’ve featured in ReadTheSpirit who inspires more reader sharing than Barbara Mahany. We were pleased to feature her again in 2023 in an interview about her new The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God’s First Sacred Text.
Barbara’s latest book is truly “remarkable,” because her aim is nothing short of “bedazzlement”—trying to summon all of our senses to a fresh appreciation of, quite literally, the natural world in our own back yards from gardens, trees and birds to wind, snow, dawn, dusk and the stars at night. Down through the millennia, she explains, great writers and spiritual sages have “read” this “book of nature” as a revelatory gift from God.
Here’s a link to that story, headlined: In ‘The Book of Nature,’ Barbara Mahany bedazzles us with the spiritual wonders in our own back yards.
Not long after our publishing house was founded in 2007, we began publishing the voices of Native American leaders. Among those landmarks was the 2009 publication of Warren Petoskey’s memoir, Dancing My Dream. Many readers follow our online magazine to find our ongoing coverage of related issues, including: investigations into the legacy of prison-like “Indian boarding schools,” questions about “land acknowledgment,” and reporting on the ongoing efforts of Native American leaders to help us all preserve our planet.
In 2023, we were honored to welcome Steven Charleston twice into the pages of our online magazine. Here are those two stories, which were shared far and wide by our readers this year:
One of the great pleasures as editor of this online magazine each year is that I occasionally collaborate on contributions from writers on stories that touch my own life in powerful ways. That certainly was true in February 2023, when best-selling author and Day1 radio host Peter Wallace sent me his story about Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee.
The story was headlined: ‘Excelsior!’ (Higher!) The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee’s Dream of a New Kind of Christian Comics. Both Peter and I are lifelong fans of comic books and comic strips—which is why one of our publishing house’s gems is a collection of anti-bullying comics we produce, called Bullying Is No Laughing Matter.
In the weeks after we published Peter Wallace’s column about Stan Lee, I heard from comic fans nationwide who were surprised that Lee ever considered producing a line of Christian comics.
To demonstrate the ongoing positive power of sharing such Good News, we only have to summon the example of a 2020 story written by two of our longtime friends: Martin Davis and Elisa Di Benedetto. The year their story about family traditions involving minestrone soup was first published, it ranked as one of the Top 10 with our readers.
And that story continues to be shared!
Here’s our original version in 2020: Across Thousands of Miles, Friends Still Connect to Feed Our Families and Our World
And here is the version that appeared in The Advance online newspaper on December 23, 2023: Warm Bellies, Warm Hearts, Warm Season
May we all continue to do good in the New Year 2024!
So, now, please take a moment to share one of these stories with friends.
You’ve just done so?
Then, blessings on you for that simple, powerful mitzvah!