Cover Story: Day1’s Peter Wallace proclaims, ‘Preach it, Brother! Preach it, Sister!’

One-year anniversary of COVID-19 closings

Day1’s Great Preaching Is Now in Book Form

Thank God for media ministries like Peter Wallace’s Day1, the network that has been sharing regular inspiration through American radio stations—and now the Internet—since the end of World War II. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Peter and his team were well-equipped as long-time veterans in providing virtual pulpits to the most talented men and women in ministry.

Now, as the world reaches the historic milestone of a year without in-person church services—at least in many parts of the world—Peter reminds us of one spiritual lifeline we need to preserve and promote: the fine art of preaching. The book’s title comes from a stirring Diana Butler Bass sermon, Bread Enough for All.

Please read our cover story and share it with friends. In this story, you’ll learn a lot about the reach of Day1’s media ministry—and you’ll find a preview of some of this book’s gems.

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Soaring in the World of Golf, a God Signs story

COLUMNIST SUZY FARBMAN, this week, invites us into the world of golf for a story of a young man who was determined to play at the highest levels on the amateur side of the game—and wound up rubbing shoulders with the greatest in the game.

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Holidays & Festivals

Care to make these delicious cookies? We’ve got the recipe.

Purim: Heroism, happiness & cookies, too!

STEPHANIE FENTON tells the story of Purim with links to a couple of our other writers, including a delicious hamantaschen recipe from Bobbie Lewis. Enjoy!

Lent: Christian Season of Reflection

MOST AMERICAN CHRISTIANS have entered the season of Lent that leads to Easter, as our Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton reports. Orthodox Christians will begin their Great Lent in March. This is often a season when men and women enjoy inspirational reading and Susan Stitt recommends some great reading in our Front Edge Publishing column.

NEW FROM MARILYN McENTYRE FOR LENT is a book that is sure to delight anyone who loves to reflect on great writing. Forty common phrases, like “going about our business,” become doorways into 40 lectio divina-style reflections, perfect for daily spiritual reflection. We asked Marilyn to write a column about the story behind this new book—and she did.

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WANT TO SEE ALL THE UPCOMING HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS?—It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just visit  InterfaithHolidays.com

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Click on this image from the movie Mangrove to read Ed’s review that highly recommends this 2020 film, part of a group of movies by the British filmmaker Steve McQueen that are streaming now on Amazon.

Faith & Film

Click on this image to learn more about the February 2021 issue of Ed McNulty’s Visual Parables Journal, which includes many complete discussion guides for movies. This issue includes guides to Land, One Night in Miami, The White Tiger, Soul, Nomadland—and more.

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns:

  1. MANGROVE—Ed writes, “Americans have Aaron Sorkin’s social justice film The Trial of the Chicago 7 and now our British cousins have Steve McQueen’s masterful Mangrove, the true story of The Mangrove Nine. Just as Selma led to the passage of major voting legislation by exposing the depth and violence of racism, so the trial of West African-Brits brought about similar exposure and passage of anti-racist legislation in the UK.”
  2. BOBBY JO: UNDER THE INFLUENCEThis is a thrilling documentary, well produced by Brent L. Jones, his wife Donna, and a skilled team of local cinematographers. It’s about the real-life hero Bobby Jo Reed, who moved from homeless to helper of hundreds.
  3. LONG TIME COMING: A 1955 BASEBALL STORY—Ed also recommends a documentary about a breakthrough in race relations in 1955 involving black and white Little League teams.
  4. BLACK EARTH RISING—”NetflixWriter/director Hugo Blick’s suspenseful eight-part political thriller is set in the aftermath of the horrible Rwandan genocide of the 90s.
  5. DARA OF JASENOVAC—”Every year another filmmaker reveals new aspects of the Holocaust. Peter (Predrag) Antonijević’s Oscar-nominated film reveals that a vast number of Serbs also perished with other victims of Nazi hatred. This is the first film set in the Croatian extermination camp Jasenovac.”
  6. SIREd writes, “You don’t have to be a romantic to love director-writer Rohena Gera’s gently paced story of love between an upper-class Indian man and a widowed servant. This French-Indian production is set mostly in a modern apartment in Mumbai, but the question it raises in its tag line, Is Love Enough, is universal.”
  7. FANNIE LOU HAMER on YOUTUBE—Ed headlines this column, 3 Books on Racism and a YouTube Video. This really is the story of Ed’s own recent reading and viewing (via YouTube) about the history of the civil rights movement and racism in America. As long-time readers know, Ed was personally involved in that movement many decades ago and had several experiences himself with civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer.
  8. PIECES OF A WOMAN—Ed writes, “Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó’s first English-language feature is for those who prefer a study of marital and in-law relationships to endless cycles of chases and things blowing up.”
  9. NOMADLAND—Ed give this 5 stars and writes, “Frances McDormand, optioning Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century writer, made a wise choice when she joined forces with director/writer Chloé Zhao.”
  10. LAND—Five stars also go to this film. “Actress Robin Wright made a wise decision in choosing screenwriters Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam to write the script for her directorial debut. Her story of a grieving women seeking escape in the solitary wilderness of the mountains, only to discover the need for community is one of the best films I have seen for reigniting hope during this time of pandemic.”.

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Cover story: Our writers encourage a season of forgiveness as we prepare for holidays


The World Is in Our Hands

‘Forgiveness is not only personally necessary; it’s a political necessity.’

IN THE PAST WEEK, readers have reminded us of words from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is one of the world’s great sages on the subject of forgiveness after his central role in ending Apartheid and then modeling reconciliation not only for his nation—but also for the entire world.

“Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness; that person will be our jailor. When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators.” That’s one of the Tutu quotes readers are sharing with each other right now. Another is: “Forgiveness is not only personally necessary; it’s a political necessity.”

That’s the pragmatic reason Tutu’s wisdom is popping up in American social media right now. America desperately needs forgiveness on many levels. The other reason Tutu’s wisdom on forgiveness is resurfacing right now is that Christians—and the majority of Americans still identify as Christian—are starting the Lenten season, this week, which leads to Easter. Forgiveness always is a central theme in Lent, seeking forgiveness for ourselves—and seeking to forgive others. Of course, forgiveness also is a central requirement in all the world’s major religions. This year, Passover begins March 27 and the fasting month of Ramadan begins April 12. (Western Christians, including most Americans, begin Lent this week on Ash Wednesday. Eastern Christians begin their Great Lent season on March 15.)

In coming weeks, as you read our issues of ReadTheSpirit online magazine, you will find more columns and stories about forgiveness to inspire and spark your reflections. Let’s start with these stories:

‘A RESET OF RELATIONSHIPS’

LOVE, LOSS and ENDURANCEWe started 2021 by publishing Bill Tammeus’s Love, Loss and Endurance: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety. If you missed it earlier, please read our cover story about Bill’s book—a very timely source of wisdom this winter. Bill’s entire, dramatic narrative is a journey to restore relationships in the wake of the horrific violence of 9/11. That’s an unfinished journey for all Americans, Bill argues—and it is a journey through which our faith calls and guides us. He writes, “Every major religion provides opportunities for reflection, admission of sins, forgiveness and a reset of relationships. But unless we somehow ritualize those opportunities, make them part of our liturgical year, we are likely to skip by chances to realign ourselves with generative values and to atone for ways we have failed.” And, that’s the core theme in this week’s ReadTheSpirit cover story, as well. Please, continue and you’ll see how the following columns form an inspiring circle.

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FROM ‘OUR LENT’ TO ‘FRIENDSHIP & FAITH’

INSPIRATION FOR YOUR JOURNEYSusan Stitt has gathered our own best books for the Lenten season in this convenient column with links to Amazon. Several of the books Susan features include powerful stories of forgiveness and reconciliation, including Our Lent, Reforming American Politics, and Friendship & Faith.

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LIKE MOVING BOULDERS

BENJAMIN PRATT, the author of three of our books and many columns in this magazine, continues to draw readers to a story he published in 2014, headlined: Clearing boulders: In our culture, forgiveness is a surprise ending. This challenging column also adds a great recommendation for Lenten reading, Ben’s book, Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral CompassDuring this season of reflection, if you’re drawn to reflections on the world’s most difficult temptations, and especially if you’re intrigued by connections between faith and film, Ben’s Bond book is a great choice.

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‘WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT LETTING GO’

OUR AUTHORS POP UP EVERYWHERE! All of us connected with the publishing house take seriously the importance of adding spiritual wisdom to the national conversation. Here’s an example from author and hospice expert Rabbi Joseph Krakoff, who co-created the illustrated volume Never Long Enough. Recently, Krakoff contributed to a column by Susan Shapiro in The Daily News, headlined How to Forgive without an Apology—What I Learned about Letting Go. Rabbi Krakoff appears in the second of the seven tips that Shapiro shares with readers in this feature.

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FORGIVENESS AS A YEAR-LONG COMMITMENT

AUTHOR AND INTERFAITH PEACE ACTIVIST Victor Begg often appears in national newspapers and wire services. He wrote a column for TC Palm, a Florida-based part of the Gannett wire service, headlined, Amid COVID-19, reflect on 2020 to see what good we can do in our world in 2021 Victor is the author of Our Muslim Neighbors and, naturally, we will be including more of his writings in this magazine as the fasting month approaches this spring.

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AN ANTIDOTE TO FEAR AND HATRED—FOCUSING ON WONDERMENT AND HOPE

GOD SIGNS COLUMNIST SUZY FARBMAN never mentions the specific term “forgiveness” in her new column this week—but her story describes the most powerful way to break free of the tragic cycles of fear and hatred that seem to plague our world. As Suzy explains in this column, she focuses on finding the “wonderment and hope” in life. Her headline is, Writing a weekly column about inspiring people taps into joy. When we approach the new people we meet with Suzy’s attitude—we start by humbly appreciating their value, stories are shared and we allow meaningful relationships to form. When we establish relationships in that healthy, humble and generous way—to borrow Tutu’s phrase from the opening news item in this week’s issue: “We become our own liberators.” Readers who do follow up on our initial recommendation, this week, to read Bill Tammeus’ new book will discover that the final 16 pages of his book are packed with advice that in essence mirrors the approach to life that Suzy describes in her column, this week, including: “respect and love others … get outside your comfortable surroundings … spend time with others.” There is a deep harmony in these calls to help reconnect our broken world. So, with Suzy’s column, we have come full circle, this week.

 

Holidays & Festivals

WANT TO SEE ALL THE UPCOMING HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS?—It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just visit  InterfaithHolidays.com

Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras,
Ash Wednesday and Clean Monday

OUR HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS COLUMNIST Stephanie Fenton explains it all beginning with the celebrations early this week, leading up to Ash Wednesday on February 17 this year. She writes, “Whip up a batch of indulgent treats rich in eggs, sugar and cream, and let yourself indulge—it’s Fat Tuesday on February 16! On the following day, Christians will enter the repentant period of Lent, leading to Easter, beginning with Ash Wednesday.”

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Click on this photo from the movie “Sir” to read Ed McNulty’s review.

Faith & Film

Click on this image to learn more about the February 2021 issue of Ed McNulty’s Visual Parables Journal, which includes many complete discussion guides for movies. This issue includes guides to Land, One Night in Miami, The White Tiger, Soul, Nomadland—and more.

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns:

  1. SIREd writes, “You don’t have to be a romantic to love director-writer Rohena Gera’s gently paced story of love between an upper-class Indian man and a widowed servant. This French-Indian production is set mostly in a modern apartment in Mumbai, but the question it raises in its tag line, Is Love Enough, is universal.”
  2. FANNIE LOU HAMER on YOUTUBE—Ed headlines this column, 3 Books on Racism and a YouTube Video. This really is the story of Ed’s own recent reading and viewing (via YouTube) about the history of the civil rights movement and racism in America. As long-time readers know, Ed was personally involved in that movement many decades ago and had several experiences himself with civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer.
  3. PIECES OF A WOMAN—Ed writes, “Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó’s first English-language feature is for those who prefer a study of marital and in-law relationships to endless cycles of chases and things blowing up.”
  4. NOMADLAND—Ed give this 5 stars and writes, “Frances McDormand, optioning Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century writer, made a wise choice when she joined forces with director/writer Chloé Zhao.”
  5. LAND—Five stars also go to this film. “Actress Robin Wright made a wise decision in choosing screenwriters Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam to write the script for her directorial debut. Her story of a grieving women seeking escape in the solitary wilderness of the mountains, only to discover the need for community is one of the best films I have seen for reigniting hope during this time of pandemic.”
  6. WHITE TIGER—”Writer-director Ramin Bahrani’s adaption of his long-time friend Aravind Adiga’s best-selling novel provides a sardonic view of the 1% as viewed by those at the bottom. It bears some similarities to the South Korean 2019 Oscar winner Parasite, except that it is set in India, where the ancient caste system still keeps the rich and the poor apart.”
  7. THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME—”There is a lot of religion in director Antonio Campos’s decades-spanning film, which he has adapted from Donald Ray Pollack’s 2011 novel, but far different from what you might find in your local church, synagogue, mosque, or temple.”
  8. REMASTERED: THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE—”Director Kelly Duane’s documentary makes viewers appreciate legendary singer Sam Cooke even more, thanks to the many musicians and music industry people she interviews, interspersing them with archive photos and footage.”
  9. SOUL—Ed urges everyone to see this delightful and surprising film. He writes, “For a family film Pixar’s Soul about a jazz pianist takes on hefty, metaphysical, themes—life and death, the appreciation of the former and one’s purpose in living.
  10. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI—Ed also urges us to see this remarkable film, writing, “Actress Regina King’s first feature film is based on scriptwriter Kemp Powers’ 2013 play about the night when Cassius Clay won the World Heavy Weight Boxing title over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964. I want to say up front that it is a “must see” film, bringing together a number of strands of the systemic racism that I have been urging readers to examine through various films.”

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Cover Story: Welcoming back Suzy Farbman’s GodSigns stories of wonderment and hope

273 Stories for 1,000s of Readers

An All-Time Favorite Returns

“WHERE IS SUZY FARBMAN?” At the Editor’s desk of this online weekly magazine, I’ve read that question in emails, and then responded to it, countless times over the past year. This week, as Suzy returns to our pages, she explains what she has been doing in a column headlined, Having finished my new art book on Detroit’s Cass Corridor, I’m returning to my GodSigns column.

Any of our long-time readers will remember that Suzy’s byline—which came to our magazine after her storied career as a nationally known journalist—is synonymous with: Hope!

The 273 stories she published before her year-long hiatus all share that theme: Real people finding real inspiration and encouragement, no matter what else happens in their lives.

So, along with her “Returning” column, we also are publishing a brand new GodSigns column this week in her classic style of storytelling. It’s headlined, Driver David Porter’s joy revs up racing classic cars. Her story begins, “If you’re born in Detroit, you’re born with a reverence for cars.” And, we’re off and racing, once again … Welcome back, Suzy!

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And, More Good News from our Writers and Readers

ONE OF THE PLEASURES of sitting at the Editor’s desk for ReadTheSpirit weekly magazine in early 2021 is the outpouring of hopeful, inspiring stories sent to us by our writers and readers. Marketing Director Susan Stitt (whose column on Lent is linked below) agrees that this is an unprecedented level of sharing—perhaps because so many of us are looking for constructive ideas in this new year. So, please, if you want to share news items, be sure to email us at [email protected]! Each week, Susan plays an essential role in helping to coordinate the incoming news—so special thanks go to Susan! One cautionary note: We can never use all of the suggestions we receive, but will continue to share a sampling. Here goes …

From Elaine Greenberg

A HOPEFUL MILESTONE IN TULSA

ELAINE GREENBERG is a musician, educator and activist on behalf of cancer patients who has been a supportive reader of our magazine for many years. “I sometimes forget to send you notes, but I thought readers would want to know about this news,” Elaine said in an email this week. Her daughter Mimi Marton is involved in a major civil rights milestone: opening a legal clinic in the area of Tulsa that was the site of the racist massacre a century ago. Here is the University of Tulsa story about the new clinic. Readers who are aware of the Tulsa tragedy, which was hidden for too many years, will feel a real boost in reading this news. (Note: The man in the spectacles in the photo above is the courageous Tulsa attorney Buck Colbert Franklin whose office was burned down in the Tulsa attack, forcing him to work from a tent. Smithsonian Magazine has an absolutely terrifying account by Franklin of the massacre. So far, there is not so much as a Wikipedia entry for Franklin! The University of Tulsa, Smithsonian and Black Past are adding online resources to focus public awareness on this nearly forgotten hero.) Thank you Elaine and Mimi for alerting us to this story! 

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From Bob Bruttell

REMEMBERING BENJAMIN BANNEKER IN BLACK HISTORY MONTH

BOB BRUTTELL is a religion scholar and  co-founder of the Michigan-based Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. To mark Black History month, Bob suggests in a couple of emails that our readers should start by learning more about the life of the 18th century Benjamin Banneker. Bob writes, “In August of 1791 Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, received a marvelous and potentially life-altering letter from Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), African American freeman, farmer, astronomer, mathematician and surveyor. I suggest that we all read Banneker’s letter.” Also, our readers may want to learn more about the remarkable—but little known—history of the Recorder of Deeds building in Washington D.C., which contains a watershed of visual representations of noted African Americans by artists during the WPA era. One of those was the mural of Banneker, a small portion of which is shown above. Our long-time readers may recall that we featured another mural from that historic building in an earlier Duncan Newcomer column about Lincoln and Douglass. (If you are among our many DC-area readers, consider making a pilgrimage to the Deeds building in Black History Month.) Thanks Bob for alerting us to this story!

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From Bill Tammeus

A BOOK THAT HELPS US ‘REIMAGINE OUR FAITH’

JOURNALIST BILL TAMMEUS launched his own new book, Love, Loss & Endurance, in January. He’s very busy with his own media outreach about that book. However, Bill also took time this month to publish a thoughtful review of Ken Whitt’s new book, God Is Just LoveBill emailed us this week to report, “I’m telling my readers about Ken’s book in this new column.” When you visit Bill’s website to read that new column, his review of Ken’s book appears just after two other fascinating news items that you’ll likely want to read as well. Thanks Bill for writing this column!

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From Duncan Newcomer

A VOICE HEARD FROM MAINE TO CALIFORNIA

“WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT IN THIS VIDEO?” That was our first question when Lincoln scholar, public radio broadcaster and author Duncan Newcomer sent us a link to a Vimeo video headlined A Beloved Ritual. As it turns out, this was a lovely tribute to Duncan’s work with his Abraham Lincoln Quiet Fire radio series. Duncan broadcasts from a studio in Maine, where he lives, and this video was shot via an iPhone by a couple in California who wanted Duncan to know that one of their beloved daily rituals involves listening to Quiet Fire as they eat a meal. The video places us right there on the table with this gentleman and his wife—next to his coffee cup and his plate—and the audio is Duncan’s voice telling them yet another inspiring story about Abe. What a delightful way to show the continent-spanning reach of the media we all publish! Thanks Duncan for sharing this video! (And, note to readers: Go grab a copy of Duncan’s 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln from Amazon and send us your own video as you enjoy these daily readings!)

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Holidays & Festivals

FEBRUARY 11—OUR LADY OF LOURDES continues to attract the faithful 163 years after 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous says she saw this miraculous figure in a grotto in France. Stephanie Fenton has the story.

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7 Inspiring Books for 40 Days 

“MORE THAN 2 BILLION CHRISTIANS are preparing for a Lenten season unlike any other, this year,” Susan Stitt writes in the opening of our Front Edge Publishing column this week. “Due to the pandemic, Lent 2021 has provided many of us with unusual down time at home, which could become more time for personal reflection and Lenten observance. Please, enjoy Susan’s seven suggestions of books you might want to explore in these 40 days—and share this story with friends. They may decide to join you and discuss what you are reading.

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SEE ALL THE HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS—It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just visit  InterfaithHolidays.com

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Click on this image to learn more about the February 2021 issue of Ed McNulty’s Visual Parables Journal, which includes many complete discussion guides for movies. This issue includes guides to Land, One Night in Miami, The White Tiger, Soul, Nomadland—and more.

FAITH & FILM 

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns:

  1. PIECES OF A WOMAN—Ed writes, “Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó’s first English-language feature is for those who prefer a study of marital and in-law relationships to endless cycles of chases and things blowing up.”
  2. NOMADLAND—Ed give this 5 stars and writes, “Frances McDormand, optioning Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century writer, made a wise choice when she joined forces with director/writer Chloé Zhao.”
  3. LAND—Five stars also go to this film. “Actress Robin Wright made a wise decision in choosing screenwriters Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam to write the script for her directorial debut. Her story of a grieving women seeking escape in the solitary wilderness of the mountains, only to discover the need for community is one of the best films I have seen for reigniting hope during this time of pandemic.”
  4. WHITE TIGER—”Writer-director Ramin Bahrani’s adaption of his long-time friend Aravind Adiga’s best-selling novel provides a sardonic view of the 1% as viewed by those at the bottom. It bears some similarities to the South Korean 2019 Oscar winner Parasite, except that it is set in India, where the ancient caste system still keeps the rich and the poor apart.”
  5. THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME—”There is a lot of religion in director Antonio Campos’s decades-spanning film, which he has adapted from Donald Ray Pollack’s 2011 novel, but far different from what you might find in your local church, synagogue, mosque, or temple.”
  6. REMASTERED: THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE—”Director Kelly Duane’s documentary makes viewers appreciate legendary singer Sam Cooke even more, thanks to the many musicians and music industry people she interviews, interspersing them with archive photos and footage.”
  7. SOUL—Ed urges everyone to see this delightful and surprising film. He writes, “For a family film Pixar’s Soul about a jazz pianist takes on hefty, metaphysical, themes—life and death, the appreciation of the former and one’s purpose in living.
  8. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI—Ed also urges us to see this remarkable film, writing, “Actress Regina King’s first feature film is based on scriptwriter Kemp Powers’ 2013 play about the night when Cassius Clay won the World Heavy Weight Boxing title over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964. I want to say up front that it is a “must see” film, bringing together a number of strands of the systemic racism that I have been urging readers to examine through various films.”
  9. THE LAST CHAMPION—Ed writes, “The Last Champion is truly a family film at both ends, from inception to viewing. Families will enjoy its coming of age aspect, sports thrills, and redemptive arc.
  10. NEWS OF THE WORLD—Ed writes, “Like Unforgiven, Paul Greengrass’ News of the World is an unconventional Western. Oh, there is are sections of violent gun play, but these are secondary to other themes, such as human relationships, the need for belonging, and the importance of “news” for connection to a world larger than our own narrow existence.”

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Cover Story: Ken Whitt reminds our weary world, ‘God Is Just Love’

Discover ‘100 Ways Families Can Find Hope Right Now’

“What can I do right now?” We’ve heard that question from countless readers and writers since the first week of this new year. All of us want to rebuild America’s shattered community. Having seen this turbulence coming for a long time, the prophetic author Ken Whitt answers this crucial question with the title affirmation, spread across the front cover of his book: God Is Just Love—Building Spiritual Resilience and Sustainable Communities for the Sake of Our Children and Creation. For readers seeking very practical ideas they can pursue immediately, Ken closes his book with “100 Things Families Can Do to Find Hope and Be Love.”

Please, read our Cover Story this week, share the news with friends and—order a copy of Ken’s book to spark ideas for your family to join in this global movement toward a sustainable future.

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And, Connect with Bill Tammeus’s Related Work

Our Cover Story about Ken Whitt’s new book also connects with the ongoing work of journalist Bill Tammeus, whose new book is Love, Loss & Endurance: a 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety. If you are interested in Ken’s book, then you may want to read our Cover Story last month about the launch of Bill Tammeus’s book. In addition, here are some of the latest headlines from Tammeus’s ongoing work as a popular writer and speaker:

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Why connect?
Because
Everyone Is Pitching In

NAJAH BAZZY: PANDEMIC HELP

OUR AUTHOR NAJAH BAZZY, who appears in Friendship & Faith and also is finishing an upcoming memoir, always finds new ways to use her expertise in helping families. Recently, Michigan Governor Whitmer named Najah to serve on her statewide commission to protect public health.

DAVID GUSHEE: A PROPHETIC VOICE

AUTHOR DAVID GUSHEE also is deeply involved in the national conversation about protecting inclusion and diversity in our civil society. In particular, he finds many ways to talk and write about the dangers we face—and solutions we can work on together. His latest column for the international Baptist News Global wire service is headlined Truth Decay: How lies prepare the way for evil.

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Holidays & Festivals

Candlemas, Groundhog Day, Imbolc

HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS expert Stephanie Fenton explains these early-spring festivals with roots that reach back through the centuries. And, are you especially phond of ol’ Phil? In her column, Stephanie provides an easy link to stream his annual appearance.

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Seven Inspiring Books for 40 Days of Reflection

MILLIONS LOOK FOR GOOD BOOKS IN THIS SEASON

“MORE THAN 2 BILLION CHRISTIANS are preparing for a Lenten season unlike any other, this year,” Susan Stitt writes in the opening of our Front Edge Publishing column this week. “Due to the pandemic, Lent 2021 has provided many of us with unusual down time at home, which could become more time for personal reflection and Lenten observance. Front Edge Publishing has a wide variety of books that will either guide you through the Lenten season or will enrich your spiritual life generally, as you prepare for the upcoming Easter.” Please, enjoy Susan’s seven suggestions of books you might want to explore in these 40 days—and share this story with friends. They may decide to join you and discuss what you are reading.

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PLAN AHEAD FOR 2021—We have reformatted our master calendar, which makes it easier for readers to make connections between great books—and the holidays, milestones and special seasons of the year. It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just visit  InterfaithHolidays.com

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Click this headline to jump over to the national web hub for the Presbyterian Church USA, where Ed McNulty published this 2020 roundup of great films for that denomination’s readers—and, of course, for all of us as well.

FAITH & FILM 

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns:

  1. 9 to 5—Ed writes, “Director/co-writer Colin Higgins’ film might have been a comedy, but it dealt with a serious and widespread problem, the oppressive conditions under which millions of women worked at the beck and call of chauvinist men.” AND DON’T MISS THE PBS documentary, 9 to 5: The Story of a Movement, which Ed also reviews this week.
  2. BIRD ON THE MAST from 1971 is a rare performance by the late Cicely Tyson that most of our readers will never have seen. To honor her passing, Ed reviews the TV drama and he provides a link to watch it anytime on YouTube.
  3. WHITE TIGER—”Writer-director Ramin Bahrani’s adaption of his long-time friend Aravind Adiga’s best-selling novel provides a sardonic view of the 1% as viewed by those at the bottom. It bears some similarities to the South Korean 2019 Oscar winner Parasite, except that it is set in India, where the ancient caste system still keeps the rich and the poor apart.”
  4. THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME—”There is a lot of religion in director Antonio Campos’s decades-spanning film, which he has adapted from Donald Ray Pollack’s 2011 novel, but far different from what you might find in your local church, synagogue, mosque, or temple.”
  5. REMASTERED: THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE—”Director Kelly Duane’s documentary makes viewers appreciate legendary singer Sam Cooke even more, thanks to the many musicians and music industry people she interviews, interspersing them with archive photos and footage.”
  6. SOUL—Ed urges everyone to see this delightful and surprising film. He writes, “For a family film Pixar’s Soul about a jazz pianist takes on hefty, metaphysical, themes—life and death, the appreciation of the former and one’s purpose in living.
  7. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI—Ed also urges us to see this remarkable film, writing, “Actress Regina King’s first feature film is based on scriptwriter Kemp Powers’ 2013 play about the night when Cassius Clay won the World Heavy Weight Boxing title over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964. I want to say up front that it is a “must see” film, bringing together a number of strands of the systemic racism that I have been urging readers to examine through various films.”
  8. A THOUSAND CUTS—Ed writes, “The fate of Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa is chronicled in Ramona S. Diaz’s engrossing PBS documentary. One of the four “Guardians” (Jamal Khashoggi being another) to be named TIME’s Person of the Year for 2018, she proves to be a fearless and calm advocate for democracy in a land sliding toward dictatorial rule
  9. THE LAST CHAMPION—Ed writes, “The Last Champion is truly a family film at both ends, from inception to viewing. Families will enjoy its coming of age aspect, sports thrills, and redemptive arc.
  10. NEWS OF THE WORLD—Ed writes, “Like Unforgiven, Paul Greengrass’ News of the World is an unconventional Western. Oh, there is are sections of violent gun play, but these are secondary to other themes, such as human relationships, the need for belonging, and the importance of “news” for connection to a world larger than our own narrow existence. Adapted by director and Luke Davies from the 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles, the film provides Tom Hanks with a great opportunity to display his acting ability, an opportunity of which he takes full advantage! It also introduces many of us to a delightful young German actress Helena Zengel.”

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Cover Story: How can we respond to ‘a cry for racial justice 400 years in the making’?

‘The Work of Joining Fragments’

“A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.” Those words from President Biden in the middle of his inaugural address were an electrifying call to action. So, this week in ReadTheSpirit magazine, we are recommending two resources to help us meet that challenge.

THE GLOBAL VISION OF DR. WILLIE JAMES JENNINGS 

START WITH THIS STORY that features the prophetic voice of Yale University’s Dr. Willie James Jennings. His latest book is a manifesto to religious leaders calling for a global rethinking of the way we all approach the American history of racism. We talk with Dr. Jennings, recommend his book and share some of his wisdom in this first story.

A REGIONAL EXPERIMENT IN CONNECTING ACROSS RACE AND CULTURE

THE SECOND PART OF OUR COVER STORY, this week, showcases how a group of religious leaders in the Virginia area have begun to experiment with pilot public conversations about race, culture and justice. This story is a valuable resource for our readers everywhere, because it shares three useful elements: a short description of how the experiment started, then links to the resulting series of YouTube videos, and finally a personal column by Benjamin Pratt as a sample of the ways we all can begin to honestly grapple with these issues.

Please, read this week’s two-part Cover Story and share it with friends. We publish under Creative Commons, so you are free to share our columns via social media, email, reposting and even by printing them on paper, if you wish. All of our columns end with a convenient print button.

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Remembering a ‘Marvelous Moment’ 

EVEN AS WE MOURN HANK AARON, Rodney Curtis writes, “I’ll always remember that April in 1974.” And to think—Hank did it after a tidal wave of racist ranting and death threats. Please, enjoy Rodney’s homage to a courageous hero.

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Virtual Book Launch Connects Despite COVID

‘Love, Loss & Endurance’

VETERAN JOURNALIST BILL TAMMEUS worked with his friend at the Kansas City Library to show us all a model for a virtual book launch in the midst of the pandemic.

In our Front Edge Publishing column this week, you can enjoy both some tips about organizing such an event—and a video of the event itself.

Among the questions Bill answers are: During the pandemic, are people finding it harder to grieve because we can’t do the things we normally do to grieve a loss? And: Why is it important to share personal stories like you have in this book to connect us to events on a national or global scale?

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Happy New Year Times 2

Tu B’Shvat, the ‘new year of the trees’

ONE OF THE JEWISH NEW YEARS—Stephanie Fenton writes, “Winter is still in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, but today in Israel, a vital component of nature is honored: It is Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for Trees. Known also as Jewish Arbor Day, it’s customary (in places where the ground isn’t frozen) for Jews to plant a tree today—and this tradition has done wonders for the Holy Land.”

Mahayana Buddhists mark a fresh start, too

JANUARY 28—Stephanie writes, “A Gregorian New Year was observed by most of the world just a few weeks ago, but for Mahayana Buddhists, the New Year comes today: on the first full moon day of January. Though customs and moon sightings vary by region, devotees in Mahayana countries—such as Tibet, Korea, Mongolia, China, Japan, Nepal, Vietnam and Indonesia—mark the New Year as a time of both meditation and gatherings.”

PLAN AHEAD FOR THIS NEW YEAR—We have reformatted our master calendar, which makes it easier for readers to make connections between great books—and the holidays, milestones and special seasons of the year. It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just visit  InterfaithHolidays.com

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Clicking on this image will take you to Ed McNulty’s review of the film that debuted four decades ago. At the top of Ed’s review, you’ll also find a direct link to the PBS Independent Lens web hub for the upcoming documentary “9 to 5: The Story of a Movement.” Watch for it to air on February 1, but check local listings because local PBS schedules vary widely.

FAITH & FILM 

Click on this cover image to find out more about the January 2021 issue of Visual Parables Journal.

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns:

  1. 9 to 5—Ed writes, “Director/co-writer Colin Higgins’ film might have been a comedy, but it dealt with a serious and widespread problem, the oppressive conditions under which millions of women worked at the beck and call of chauvinist men.”
  2. FRIDA—Ed also has brought back a review of the 2002 film, Frida, about the life of Frida Kahlo—because there’s a remarkable web portal in cooperation with Google Arts & Culture to let visitors “tour” hundreds of Kahlo’s works. Click here to read Ed’s review of Frida—and, at the top of his review, you’ll find a link to learn more about the web portal.
  3. SOUL—Ed urges everyone to see this delightful and surprising film. He writes, “For a family film Pixar’s Soul about a jazz pianist takes on hefty, metaphysical, themes—life and death, the appreciation of the former and one’s purpose in living.
  4. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI—Ed also urges us to see this remarkable film, writing, “Actress Regina King’s first feature film is based on scriptwriter Kemp Powers’ 2013 play about the night when Cassius Clay won the World Heavy Weight Boxing title over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964. I want to say up front that it is a “must see” film, bringing together a number of strands of the systemic racism that I have been urging readers to examine through various films.”
  5. A THOUSAND CUTS—Ed writes, “The fate of Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa is chronicled in Ramona S. Diaz’s engrossing PBS documentary. One of the four “Guardians” (Jamal Khashoggi being another) to be named TIME’s Person of the Year for 2018, she proves to be a fearless and calm advocate for democracy in a land sliding toward dictatorial rule.”
  6. Click this image from the film to read Ed McNulty’s review, which ends with a link to watch this haunting, 7-minute documentary online now.

    A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN—”This short documentary is as chilling as you are likely to see, chronicling a public event taking place in 1939 at NYC’s Madison Square Gardens, and yet strikingly contemporary, because it reminds us that the spirit of fascism lives on. It was nominated for a Short Documentary at the 2019 Oscars.”

  7. GUN AND A HOTEL BIBLE—Ed writes, “This is a delightful blend of fantasy and religion of which I think the author of The Screwtape Letters would approve. How often have you noticed or paid attention, during your stay overs at a hotel or motel, to one of those black-bound books on a table or in the drawer with stationery and tourist information? Imagine if one of those Bibles could talk about its effect on one of the occupants of the room—and you have this film, based on the play by Bradley Gosnell and Daniel Floren.”
  8. MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM—Ed writes, “In this adaptation of an August Wilson play, Denzel Washington (who in 2016 directed and starred in Fences), remains behind the camera this time as executive producer. But, his Fences co-star Viola Davis is very much front and center as the title character, a real life Blues singer, one of the first Black women to cut a record in the early 20th Century. The film is also outstanding because not only does her co-star Chadwick Boseman rise to her superb level of performance, it will forever be known as his last screen appearance. Even setting aside the film’s social significance, this is a film not to be missed!”
  9. THE LAST CHAMPION—Ed writes, “The Last Champion is truly a family film at both ends, from inception to viewing. Families will enjoy its coming of age aspect, sports thrills, and redemptive arc.
  10. NEWS OF THE WORLD—Ed writes, “Like Unforgiven, Paul Greengrass’ News of the World is an unconventional Western. Oh, there is are sections of violent gun play, but these are secondary to other themes, such as human relationships, the need for belonging, and the importance of “news” for connection to a world larger than our own narrow existence. Adapted by director and Luke Davies from the 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles, the film provides Tom Hanks with a great opportunity to display his acting ability, an opportunity of which he takes full advantage! It also introduces many of us to a delightful young German actress Helena Zengel.”

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Cover Story: ‘Love, Loss and Endurance’ shows how 9/11 extremism evolved to 1/6—and how we can ‘unplug extremism’

Click this cover image to read the story about Bill Tammeus.

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A Prophetic New Book Helps Us ‘Unplug Extremism’

UNDERSTANDING THE BRIGHT RED LINE FROM 9/11 to 1/6

COVER STORY—The first thing you need to know about author Bill Tammeus’s new book, Love, Loss and Endurance, is that it’s more than a “good read.” This is a prophetic book from one of the nation’s top journalists about how 9/11 extremism, 20 years ago, sprang from the same kinds of extreme, “monochromatic” thinking that produced the attack on the U.S. Capitol on 1/6. At the end of this dramatic story of real-life families, Bill gives us 16 pages of important lessons we can use—as individuals, families, congregations and communities—to “unplug extremism.” Please, read our Cover Story this week, order a copy of Bill’s new book—and share this news with friends.

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Bill Tammeus Is not Alone

OUR PUBLISHING HOUSE is releasing a whole series of books in early 2021 that will make our world a little better place, both in your reading and in the sharing of these stories with others. Read Susan Stitt’s overview of 10 upcoming books that will engage, inspire and provide practical new resources you can use right away. Yes, Bill’s book is the first one Susan covers in her column—then she previews nine more books you’ll want to consider, as well. Need something to lift your spirits in the midst of this dark winter? This lineup of new books is overflowing with hope.

Want to learn about another author in that lineup? Please enjoy the following news item …

A Breakthrough in Inclusion: Jets Hire Saleh

NFL WELCOMES ITS FIRST MUSLIM HEAD COACH

EVEN IN THE WAKE OF 1/6 EXTREMISM, opportunities for inclusion continue to expand in America. Just as we were going to press this week, we got an email from journalist and author Martin Davis—who will publish 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches this spring. He was celebrating the breaking news that Robert Saleh becomes the first Muslim to become a coach in the NFL. In sending along his newsy story, Martin wrote to us: “This column really is about two things: First, America as a nation needs our immigrants—they make us the strong nation that we are. It’s a message we desperately need to be reminded of. Then, second, this column reflects on one of the dominant themes of my book: the role of high school coaches in building communities. You see it in the story of Saleh and Stergalas. You hear it Abe Ahmad’s words.” Please, enjoy this breaking news as a hopeful antidote to all the other somber headlines coming our way this week.

When you do enjoy this column by Martin Davis, you will discover that it ends with a powerful quote from Abe Lincoln. And that’s a great transition to the next news item this week …

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WHAT A FASCINATING PORTRAIT OF COOPERATION! In 2010, President Obama met with the bipartisan co-chairs of  the new national council to reform U.S. financial planning. At left is Democrat Erskine Bowles. In the center is former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson. Above Simpson on the wall of the Oval Office is another famous Republican.

Larry Buxton: Simpson on Integrity

VISIT OUR AUTHOR LARRY BUXTON’S website for a 4-minute Leading with Spirit video about a couple of the values that millions of Americans seem to have forgotten in recent years. And, yes, as indicated in the photo above, Larry recommends some classic wisdom from Alan Simpson. Larry’s videos are easy to share with friends. Perhaps you could share this week’s video with a note on social media: “Remember when Republicans were sources of universal wisdom?”

Duncan Newcomer: Lincoln on Inauguration

DUNCAN’S QUIET FIRE COLUMN reminds us of another Republican sage as he shares Lincoln’s thoughts about the sacred nature of the inauguration and the transfer of power in the United States—certainly a very timely story.

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Learning from Dr. King

‘Anybody Can Serve’

ALL WEEK LONG, Stephanie Fenton writes, let’s remember the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Stephanie not only reminds us of King’s wisdom, she packs her column with newsy links, including: links to volunteer programs where you can serve your community, even if you can’t leave your home, plus resources for children from Scholastic, plus a stirring new documentary MLK/FBI, which is streaming online right now. And, yes, of course Stephanie included that link readers love to the recipe for Dr. King’s favorite sweet potato pie. Please, enjoy this column and share it with friends.

AND—OUR 2021 INTERFAITH CALENDAR

PLAN AHEAD—For the new year, we have a new format, which makes it easier for readers to make connections between great books—and the holidays, milestones and special seasons of the year. It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just visit  InterfaithHolidays.com

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Click on this image to read Ed McNulty’s review of the documentary A Thousand Cuts.

FAITH & FILM 

Click on this cover image to find out more about the January 2021 issue of Visual Parables Journal.

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns:

  1. A THOUSAND CUTS—Ed writes, “The fate of Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa is chronicled in Ramona S. Diaz’s engrossing PBS documentary. One of the four “Guardians” (Jamal Khashoggi being another) to be named TIME’s Person of the Year for 2018, she proves to be a fearless and calm advocate for democracy in a land sliding toward dictatorial rule.”
  2. Click this image from the film to read Ed McNulty’s review, which ends with a link to watch this haunting, 7-minute documentary online now.

    A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN—”This short documentary is as chilling as you are likely to see, chronicling a public event taking place in 1939 at NYC’s Madison Square Gardens, and yet strikingly contemporary, because it reminds us that the spirit of fascism lives on. It was nominated for a Short Documentary at the 2019 Oscars.”

  3. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI—”Actress Regina King’s first feature film is based on scriptwriter Kemp Powers’ 2013 play about the night when Cassius Clay won the World Heavy Weight Boxing title over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964. I want to say up front that it is a “must see” film, bringing together a number of strands of the systemic racism that I have been urging readers to examine through various films.”
  4. A DANGEROUS LIFEEd begins this week by reaching back to 1988 to recommend a gripping documentary about events surrounding the 1986 Philippine People Power Revolution. His review includes a direct link to watch the entire film on YouTube.
  5. GUN AND A HOTEL BIBLE—Ed writes, “This is a delightful blend of fantasy and religion of which I think the author of The Screwtape Letters would approve. How often have you noticed or paid attention, during your stay overs at a hotel or motel, to one of those black-bound books on a table or in the drawer with stationery and tourist information? Imagine if one of those Bibles could talk about its effect on one of the occupants of the room—and you have this film, based on the play by Bradley Gosnell and Daniel Floren.”
  6. MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM—Ed writes, “In this adaptation of an August Wilson play, Denzel Washington (who in 2016 directed and starred in Fences), remains behind the camera this time as executive producer. But, his Fences co-star Viola Davis is very much front and center as the title character, a real life Blues singer, one of the first Black women to cut a record in the early 20th Century. The film is also outstanding because not only does her co-star Chadwick Boseman rise to her superb level of performance, it will forever be known as his last screen appearance. Even setting aside the film’s social significance, this is a film not to be missed!”
  7. THE LAST CHAMPION—Ed writes, “The Last Champion is truly a family film at both ends, from inception to viewing. Families will enjoy its coming of age aspect, sports thrills, and redemptive arc.
  8. NEWS OF THE WORLD—Ed writes, “Like Unforgiven, Paul Greengrass’ News of the World is an unconventional Western. Oh, there is are sections of violent gun play, but these are secondary to other themes, such as human relationships, the need for belonging, and the importance of “news” for connection to a world larger than our own narrow existence. Adapted by director and Luke Davies from the 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles, the film provides Tom Hanks with a great opportunity to display his acting ability, an opportunity of which he takes full advantage! It also introduces many of us to a delightful young German actress Helena Zengel.”
  9. THE MAN WITHOUT GRAVITY—”The Man Without Gravity is an Italian magical-realist tale from first-time narrative filmmaker Marco Bonfanti. In the film, he whimsically tells the story of Oscar (Elio Germano) from his incredible birth, through childhood, and ultimate reunion with his childhood sweetheart Agata. This delightful escapist film about an outsider has plenty of flaws but none that ought to spoil your enjoyment.”
  10. THE CROODS: A NEW AGE—”Director Joel Crawford’s film, the second in the series about a Stone Age family, is an amusing tale of culture clash and the need for solidarity. Just as I loved the first film almost seven years ago, The Croods, I recommend this one too. It provides both escapist fare for the whole family and, like the first film, teaches some worthy life lessons.”

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Cover Story: We’re publishing what we all need in 2021—True Stories of Love, Resilience and Healing

Peacemaking in the face of violence

There’s Help and Inspiration on the Way!

YOU CAN PRE-ORDER, RIGHT NOW, SOME REMARKABLE NEW BOOKS. This week, Front Edge Publishing’s Susan Stitt, who works closely with all of our new authors, starts 2021 with a preview of upcoming titles. What amazes us, in light of events last week, is the prophetic timeliness of these books. In 2020, our authors and staff could foresee what Americans would want to read in early 2021—books that inspire hope and share practical paths toward peacemaking—but we had no idea how obvious this need would be to the whole world in early January.

Please, read this Cover Story now. Follow the links to order books that inspire you—or email us with inquiries about upcoming books that aren’t available yet online. Ask us about group orders and discuss these books with friends in your congregation or larger community. And, please, share this cover story with friends via social media. Each step you take to share this news potentially makes the world a little better place.

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World Religion Day

BAHA’IS’ PIONEERING ROLE AS INTERFAITH PEACEMAKERS

SATURDAY, JANUARY 16, 2021—Stephanie Fenton writes, “Take a few moments to consider unity through diversity, joining Baha’is on this, the 70th observation of World Religion Day. Initiated in 1950, World Religion Day follows an essential tenet of the Baha’i religion: the belief that all religions are one, with each prophet or messenger delivering God’s truth for his time and place.”

AND—CHECK OUT OUR 2021 INTERFAITH CALENDAR

PLAN AHEAD—For the new year, we have a new format, which makes it easier for readers to make connections between great books—and the holidays, milestones and special seasons of the year. It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just visit  InterfaithHolidays.com

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What We Can Learn from the Power of Time

WE NEVER STOP GROWING … 

THE ANCIENT PSALMIST understood the power of time to reassure and empower us to build healthy communities. Psalm 90 says it clearly: “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” That’s why ReadTheSpirit magazine was launched in 2007 with a commitment to cover religious and cultural holidays and festivals as a part of our weekly issues.

And, over the past week, two major milestones remind us of this timeless truth. First was the death of British director Michael Apted, whose life was chronicled in a New York Times obituary. Among other great films, Apted created the 7Up series, documenting the lives of a group of children throughout their lives—since 1964. The Times calls this “the most profound documentary series in the history of cinema.”

Well, these days all of us can number our days, just as the Psalmist and Apted demonstrated. That’s why, this week, you don’t want to miss author and photographer Rodney Curtis’s tribute to life and love even in the midst of COVID. And, yes, you’ll want to share this with friends.

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The January 2021 issue of Visual Parables Journal is now available. Please click this image from the Journal cover to learn more.

FAITH & FILM 

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns:

  1. A DANGEROUS LIFEEd begins this week by reaching back to 1988 to recommend a gripping documentary about events surrounding the 1986 Philippine People Power Revolution. His review includes a direct link to watch the entire film on YouTube.
  2. GUN AND A HOTEL BIBLE—Ed writes, “This is a delightful blend of fantasy and religion of which I think the author of The Screwtape Letters would approve. How often have you noticed or paid attention, during your stay overs at a hotel or motel, to one of those black-bound books on a table or in the drawer with stationery and tourist information? Imagine if one of those Bibles could talk about its effect on one of the occupants of the room—and you have this film, based on the play by Bradley Gosnell and Daniel Floren.”
  3. MANK—Ed writes, “I love films about filmmaking, and David Fincher’s Mank, centering on Herman J. Mankiewicz the co-writer of Citizen Kane, is no exception. Based on a script by Jack Fincher, the director’s late father, the film has scintillating dialogue that is as delightful to the ear as the repartee in the madcap comedies popular during the period of the story, the mid 30s to 1940. And Erik Messerschmidt’s crisp B&W photography certainly evokes that bygone era.”
    1. RELATED: CITIZEN KANE—As an added bonus, Ed has published a column about Citizen Kane, which is a central part of the Mank movieAnd, there’s much more …
    2. RKO 281—Ed writes, “Even as the NetFlix film Mank gives us more of Herman Mankiewicz’s version of the writing of Citizen Kane, this HBO film gives Orson Welles far more credit for its authorship.
    3. CRADLE WILL ROCK—Because of the interest in Orson Welles raised by Netflix’s Mank, we reach back to the March 2000 issue of Visual Parables for this film in which Welles is an important part of Broadway history.”
    4. THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTHEd also recommends a unique, brief TV production by Welles titled The Fountain of Youth. The program was shown once in 1958 as a pilot that was never picked up by the networks. Nevertheless, it won a prestigious Peabody Award that year and it is now available on YouTube via a link that Ed provides.
  4. MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM—Ed writes, “In this adaptation of an August Wilson play, Denzel Washington (who in 2016 directed and starred in Fences), remains behind the camera this time as executive producer. But, his Fences co-star Viola Davis is very much front and center as the title character, a real life Blues singer, one of the first Black women to cut a record in the early 20th Century. The film is also outstanding because not only does her co-star Chadwick Boseman rise to her superb level of performance, it will forever be known as his last screen appearance. Even setting aside the film’s social significance, this is a film not to be missed!”
  5. THE LAST CHAMPION—Ed writes, “The Last Champion is truly a family film at both ends, from inception to viewing. Families will enjoy its coming of age aspect, sports thrills, and redemptive arc.
  6. NEWS OF THE WORLD—Ed writes, “Like Unforgiven, Paul Greengrass’ News of the World is an unconventional Western. Oh, there is are sections of violent gun play, but these are secondary to other themes, such as human relationships, the need for belonging, and the importance of “news” for connection to a world larger than our own narrow existence. Adapted by director and Luke Davies from the 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles, the film provides Tom Hanks with a great opportunity to display his acting ability, an opportunity of which he takes full advantage! It also introduces many of us to a delightful young German actress Helena Zengel.”
  7. BEYOND THE WALL—Directed by the late Jenny Phillips and telecast in 2018, this documentary was part of the PBS series America Reframed. This series of well over 100 independent films for several years invited us each week to look at many overlooked aspects of our nation. This episode from the series reveals many of the difficulties that confront newly released prisoners, especially those (a majority) wresting with drug addiction.”
  8. THE MAN WITHOUT GRAVITY—”The Man Without Gravity is an Italian magical-realist tale from first-time narrative filmmaker Marco Bonfanti. In the film, he whimsically tells the story of Oscar (Elio Germano) from his incredible birth, through childhood, and ultimate reunion with his childhood sweetheart Agata. This delightful escapist film about an outsider has plenty of flaws but none that ought to spoil your enjoyment.”
  9. THE CROODS: A NEW AGE—”Director Joel Crawford’s film, the second in the series about a Stone Age family, is an amusing tale of culture clash and the need for solidarity. Just as I loved the first film almost seven years ago, The Croods, I recommend this one too. It provides both escapist fare for the whole family and, like the first film, teaches some worthy life lessons.”
  10. THE BREAD WINNER—”Irish director Nora Twomey, who co-directed the exquisitely beautiful The Secret of Kells, launches out on her own with the gorgeously animated film set in Kabul in 2001 on the cusp of America’s invasion in retaliation for the attack on the Twin Towers. With its theme of the Taliban’s oppression of women, the film will remind some of another similarly themed film, though set in Iran, Persepolis.”

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