Cover Story: Remembering Dr. King and The Communal Costs of COVID

First, The Communal Costs of COVID

OUR WRITERS and our readers have asked us to explore the deeper spiritual costs of the COVID pandemic and, this week, we are focusing on the specific question: What are the communal costs of COVID? Responding to that question are two writers from the University of Michigan.

Dr. WAYNE BAKER is long-time sociologist in the UofM Ross School of Business and has spent many years researching Americans’ core values. In responding to this question, Wayne explores how the life-and-death battle over COVID vaccines nationwide has turned into a kind of morality play that hinges on different understandings of our shared values.

THEN, UofM undergraduate Emily Brown writes, this week, about how isolation during the pandemic robs students of the community that is a core part of a meaningful education.

Please, read these two columns and share them with friends. These columns also might be helpful in sparking a discussion with friends, perhaps in a “virtual” discussion group or a small group in your congregation.

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Then, Remembering Dr. King

AS WE MARK the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, this week, we are taking readers on an inspirational journey that shows how three prophetic peacemakers connected and influenced each other: Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. E. Stanley Jones and the Rev. Dr. King. In this column in our Front Edge Publishing website, David Crumm explains those connections and provides links to discover even more—through three inspiring profiles of these peacemakers, written by Daniel Buttry. In this way, we are offering readers a unique perspective on King’s legacy.

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

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From Our Authors—

Martin Davis:

‘There’s no place like home.’

MARTIN DAVIS is one of the most popular contributing columnists in our online magazine and he also is on the verge of publishing a new book with us: 30 Days With America’s High School Coaches. This week, Martin began a new job in his long career as a journalist: Opinion Page Editor for The Free Lance-Star, the daily newspaper serving readers in the area around Fredericksburg, Virginia, which is south of Washington D.C. We are recommending that you read Martin’s welcoming column to his readers (this link will take you to the Free Lance-Star), because Martin touches on themes that relate closely to our other stories, this week. In his column, Martin urges his readers to remember the importance of the many connections that bind them all as a community.

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Suzy Farbman:

The whole world is our community

IN HER GOD SIGNS COLUMN THIS WEEK, Suzy Farbman reminds us of the incredible cultures and natural wonders that are awaiting us around the world—as she profiles world traveler and photographer Ruthie Petzold. The most remarkable part of Ruthie’s story is that she refused to let a whole series of life-threatening injuries keep her from these adventures.

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Click on this image to learn more about the January 2022 issue of Visual Parables Journal, which includes complete discussion guides to West Side Story, Don’t Look Up, The Unforgivable, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Being the Ricardos 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:

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Cover Story: In an era of isolation, a community of writers is a creative catalyst

Martin Davis asks—

What is the value of a community of writers?

Since our founding in 2007, our publishing house has fostered communities of writers nationwide and, in some cases, around the world. As 2022 opens, a long-time contributing columnist to ReadTheSpirit magazine is becoming one of our authors with the release of his first book, 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches, which is available for pre-order right now. In our Cover Story this week, Martin Davis writes about the importance of such writing circles. Please, enjoy his column, share it with friends—and, if you are aware of like-minded writers who might like to connect with us, email us at [email protected]

And Larry Buxton adds—

Another author in the writer’s community Martin describes is Larry Buxton, whose specialty is exploring the challenges and the values that shape great leaders. Larry is welcoming 2022 with a new video in his ongoing Leading with Spirit series of weekly inspirational messages. We are featuring Larry’s video, this week, in our Front Edge Publishing website. Please, take a moment to hear from Larry via this new video. It’s just a few minutes long—then you may want to share this message with friends, as well.

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Please, listen! This link will take you to the new Audible version of Dr. Gushee’s best-seller about LGBTQ inclusion, offered via Amazon.

Dr. David Gushee’s outreach

ONE OF OUR AUTHORS who encourages families around the world to accept the ever-growing diversity of our communities is Dr. David Gushee. In early 2022, Dr. Gushee will publish his first multi-media book, Introducing Christian Ethics, a summary of his teachings over many years. The book includes text, audio and video. As this new year opens, Dr. Gushee is appearing in news media and podcasts, including:

  • JOIN A FREE ZOOM with Dr. Gushee on Friday January 14, hosted by Baptist News Global (BNG)—the worldwide wire service where many of Dr. Gushee’s newsy columns appear. BNG is extending a free invitation to any interested listener either via Zoom or Facebook. Dr. Gushee will be talking with BNG Executive Director Mark Wingfield on Friday January 14, 2022, to discuss Dr. Gushee’s new book, Introducing Christian Ethics. The online webinar begins at 10 a.m. Eastern time, so if you’re on the West Coast, you would have to be online by 7 a.m. It’s free—but advance registration is required to participate via Zoom. Register here.
  • The BNG webinar also will be livestreamed via Facebook.
  • WANT TO HEAR FROM DR. GUSHEE RIGHT NOW? This week, Dr. Gushee sent us this update: “I’ve been on a lot of wonderful podcasts lately. One of them, The Fear of God Podcast with Nathan Rouse was an
    incredibly rich conversation from a very different angle. We discussed ideas often found to ‘scare’ people of faith as a means to find ways to be ‘saved’ of those fears. More than that, it was an honest attempt to wrestle
    faithfully with the real world we all occupy. Please, check out this podcast.”

Changing Our Mind is now on Audible

DR. GUSHEE’S BEST-SELLING BOOK about accepting LGBTQ members of our communities now is available on Audible via Amazon. The moment this new audio version of Changing Our Mind appeared online, Audible listeners began requesting it.

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Holidays & Festivals

Stephanie Fenton’s new 2022 Calendar

EACH YEAR, we hear from readers around the world who use Stephanie Fenton’s interfaith calendar as a guide to holidays, festivals and other observances—because it’s challenging to determine when the many moveable holidays fall each year. Please, look over our new 2022 interfaith calendar and contact us if you have questions, or if you think of an observance we should add to this annual guide.

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Rabbi Lenore Bohm on Tu BiShvat—

CONSIDER A JEWISH FRUIT SALAD THIS YEAR as one way to observe Tu BiShvat, the “birthday of the trees,” writes Rabbi Lenore Bohm. Please, enjoy her column and share it with friends this week.

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

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Milestone for First Nations

THROUGHOUT 2021, our writers focused on news about Native communities across what is today North America. The most widely shared of our stories appeared in June, along with links to coverage of news about so-called Indian “boarding schools.” We also received a great deal of reader comments, via emails and even some calls to our office, about two other Native American stories we published this year. We called one of them Rethinking Thanksgiving and the other widely shared and discussed column was Bill Tammeus’s reporting on Land Acknowledgment.

IN 2022, WE WILL CONTINUE THIS COVERAGE. Here are two different news perspectives on the major milestone achieved in Canada concerning First Nations.

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Faith & Film

Click on this movie image to read Ed McNulty’s review of Joel Coen’s new version of The Tragedy of MacBeth co-starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand.

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:

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Cover Story: 2022 brings big questions and inspiring answers

Bill Tammeus and Dr. David Gushee on:

‘Do Christian ethics have a place in a post-Christian world?’

GOT BIG QUESTIONS? LET’S START WITH THESE ANSWERS: Journalist and author Bill Tammeus starts 2022 by talking with Christian ethicist Dr. David Gushee. Bill introduces their conversation this way: “I’m going to introduce you today to a forthcoming book that speaks about how followers of the child born on Christmas are to be living today in light of his birth, life, death and resurrection. It’s called Introducing Christian Ethics: Core Convictions for Christians Today, by David P. Gushee, one of the best-known Christian ethicists. It’s a challenging book because it takes Jesus seriously and it takes seriously what it means to be a Christ follower. But it also raises questions that even non-Christians would do well to ponder as together we face a wounded world in need of relief and redemption.”

Please, follow this link to read this conversation between these two authors, a column that appears on Bill’s home website.

And please consider pre-ordering a copy of Dr. Gushee’s book. Here’s the Amazon link to do that right now.

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As 2022 opens—

We’ll lift your spirits with new books

WRITING FOR OUR FRONT EDGE PUBLISHING HOUSE, Susan Stitt previews some of the books we will be launching as 2022 unfolds. We can guarantee you’ll find books that will lift your spirits, even in the dark and chill of winter. Please, help our community of writers by reading Susan’s column and then sharing a link to it via your social media—using the easy-to-share buttons that accompany this story.

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From Suzy Farbman in GODSIGNS—

‘Great Art Can Console’

DRAWING ON TWO GREAT POETS, Suzy Farbman shares some of the ups and downs—and ups—of her family’s attempt to celebrate the year-end holidays.

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News about Our Authors

THREE OF OUR AUTHORS found their books included in year-end roundups published in two different online magazines.

Women of WISDOM and Little Pink Houses of Hope founder Jeanine Patten-Coble were included in an Improve Her Health roundup, headlined: 34 Great Life Changing Books To Inspire Women.

Col. Clifford Worthy was included in a Pretty Progressive roundup: 36 Best Books by Black Authors.

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Holidays & Festivals

Twelfth Night, Epiphany and Theophany

STEPHANIE FENTON writes about a cluster of ancient Christian holidays in early January, best known in many communities for remembering the arrival of “Magi” or “three wise men” to visit the baby Jesus.

And a Special Calendar Request—

IN EARLY JANUARY, Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton prepares a new annual calendar of holidays, festivals, anniversaries, milestones and special observances. Want to help? Want to make sure that your favorite occasion is properly included in our 2022 calendar (which will go public in mid January)? Take a look at our 2021 calendar—go to InterfaithHolidays.com—and see if the holidays and milestones are included. Also, consider major anniversaries coming up in 2022 that we should mark for our readers. Please, email us any suggestions to [email protected].

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2 perspectives on Netflix’s new Don’t Look Up

Two of our writers have reviewed Don’t Look Up this week—

And, pssst! Read both! Rodney and Ed both like the film very much, although for somewhat different reasons.

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:

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A Dozen Doses of Hope: Twelve most popular stories of 2021

Our promise—
Good Media Builds Healthy Communities’ 

AS 2021 DRAWS TO A CLOSE …

THERE WERE MANY TRAGEDIES THIS YEAR—but the darkness also inspired countless men and women to shine hopeful lights in our world. Since our founding in 2007, our publishing house team has released a new lineup of ReadTheSpirit magazine stories every week. That means we’ve published nearly 750 weekly issues in all! To close out 2021, here are 12 of the most popular stories among the hundreds we published this year. The “most popular” ranking is based partly on the number of readers drawn to these stories as well as the levels of social-media sharing and the follow-up contacts we’ve had with readers, colleagues and friends around the world as a result of these stories.

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Creativity that Circles the Globe

WE START THIS YEAR-END LIST WITH A SPECIAL SALUTE to a writer whose professional expertise circles the globe and whose columns, since our founding in 2007, have now exceeded 2,000. We’re describing Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton, who closes her work in 2021 with a preview of New Year’s Eve—a story that includes her signature touch: links to DIY holiday ideas as well as yummy recipes. Thanks for all you’ve done for us in 2021 and over the past 14 years, Stephanie! We look forward to your coverage in 2022.

‘One large, sweeping tale’

AS 2021 BEGAN, author and photographer Rodney Curtis drew into sharp focus why these ever-moving cycles of seasons matter so much to all of us. Then, Rodney soon published a follow-up column with more fascinating photos, headlined simply: Papa Razi.  Thank you, Rodney, for your wonderful photos and stories!

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‘Unplugging Extremism’

IN JANUARY 2021, we published Bill Tammeus’s inspiring and very practical book, Love, Loss and Endurance, about how much we have learned—and how much we still need to learn about the legacy of 9/11/2001 at the 20th anniversary of those terrorist attacks. Why is it important to talk about these issues within your family, congregation and community? Bill’s answer is: Because we all can play a role in showing others how to balance our faith and our diversity in a peaceful way. In this Cover Story interview, Bill says, “We forget that every generation has to learn this stuff. … If we don’t do that, we fail ourselves and our communities and dangerous ways of thinking can emerge again. As every generation comes along, we have to teach the children well.

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‘100 Ways to Find Hope and Be Love’

SINCE THE PANDEMIC BEGAN, readers have asked us, “What can I do to help the world right now?” The author Ken Whitt answered with a title affirmation that was spread across the front cover of his 2021 book: God Is Just Love. The book’s subtitle is, Building Spiritual Resilience and Sustainable Communities for the Sake of Our Children and Creation. For readers seeking ideas they can pursue immediately, Ken closed his book with “100 Things Families Can Do to Find Hope and Be Love.” Read this cover story from early 2021 in which Ken Whitt talks about his hopes for families and the caring communities we can form together. Want practical ideas? Get to know Ken through the pages of his new book and you’ll soon be overflowing with creative ideas yourself.

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‘Suzy’s back!’

AFTER A YEAR-LONG HIATUS, GodSigns columnist Suzy Farbman returned to the pages of our weekly online magazine. A couple of times each month, she brings us stories of the remarkable men and women she meets in her wide-ranging travels. Readers were thrilled when we welcomed her back to ReadTheSpirit early in 2021 with a story about a car-racing enthusiast from Detroit, the Motor City. Every week that a Suzy Farbman story  appears in our ReadTheSpirit mix, we hears from readers across the U.S. mainly by email, encouraging her to keep finding and sharing fun stories. She began her first column of 2021 this way: “If you’re born in Detroit, you’re born with a reverence for cars.” Clearly, many readers far beyond Detroit also enjoy a good car story.

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‘Meditation in Motion’

MANY COLUMNS in 2021 by author Lucille Sider could have been headlined with this phrase: “Meditation in Motion.” A wise and inspiring survivor who shares stories about her own spiritual explorations, Lucille always seems to focus on practical ideas to light up your day and revive your spirit. Here is her first column of 2021, which appeared back in April. Then, if you’re intrigued by Lucille’s work, here’s a link that conveniently indexes a number of her 2021 columns. (And, we also want to extend a special year-end salute to associate editor Cody Harrell, who collaborates with Lucille! Thanks for all you do, Cody.)

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Everybody Loves a Tasty Recipe!

ONE OF THE TRUTHS OF JOURNALISM is that some of the most popular columns ever published in newspapers and magazines involve recipes! So how did “the hot dog” column come to our pages? Well, author and journalist Martin Davis is one of several writers who has regaled our readers over the years with parallels between the American Spirit and the game of baseball. To mark Opening Day in 2021, Marty focused on a North Carolina style of hot dog that he strongly associates with his love of baseball. And, yes, he included a detailed recipe that included suggestions for trying to recreate his regional version of the hot dog. This led to countless readers actually trying to make the treat. For weeks after his column appeared, our home office would receive emails that asked questions such as: “Do we really need to find Duke’s mayonnaise?” You can read Marty’s Hymn to the Hot Dog and decide for yourself.

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Seeing and Hearing Our Authors

IN 2021, we saw a dramatic rise in the number of videos shared by our writers. In fact, in May, two of our authors collaborated on a video in which they discussed ways to cope with trauma in our lives. As Mindy opens this video dialogue, she says in part: “Grief and trauma are invisible. When we are experiencing grief and trauma you cannot see it. You can’t see it anywhere on me that I have suffered greatly and that I still have grief and that I still have instances of anger and sometimes I get very short tempered. But just because you cannot see it does not mean that it is not there. My book is the story of how a shattered soul ached to find the glue it needed to piece myself and my family back together.”

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A Multi-Media Treasure Trove

Just as that Mindy-and-Bill video was widely shared in 2021, the news of David Edwards’ memoir, What Belongs to God, was spread in part because of the links to Edwards’ treasure trove of multi-media resources. Before his passing in 2019, Edwards’ long career as a pastor, teacher and peace activist included his vocation as a singer-songwriter. Edwards’ family has archived resources from his music ministry online—and the family now invites readers to explore these gems.

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The Songs of Carrie Newcomer

MULTIMEDIA also was a key to the popularity of our Cover Story interview with Quaker singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer. This story about Carrie’s work during the pandemic included news about her work with a cutting-edge streaming service that allows musicians to organize online events. We also quoted from Carrie’s thought-provoking lyrics, including:

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

 

The First Americans

THROUGHOUT 2021, our writers have focused on news about Native communities across what is today North America. The most widely shared of our stories appeared in June, along with links to coverage of news about so-called Indian “boarding schools.” We also received a great deal of reader comments, via emails and even some calls to our office, about two other Native American stories we published this year. We called one of them Rethinking Thanksgiving and the other widely shared and discussed column was Bill Tammeus’s reporting on Land Acknowledgment.

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And For All We Lost This Year

FINALLY, EVERY ONE OF US—our publishing house team and our thousands of readers—will close this turbulent year with vivid memories of all we’ve lost this year. That’s why every major newspaper and magazine closes each year with eulogies for the notable people who left us. This year, the list is overwhelming from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Stephen Sondheim, Larry McMurtry, Ed Asner, Hank Aaron, Beverly Cleary—and soooo many more that we will end our list with these few names. It took a writer of Duncan Newcomer’s stature to broaden our vision of life—and death—this year with his unique elegy to the passing of Sonnets, a noble cat whose life story has now circled the planet, thanks to Duncan.

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Click on this image to learn more about the December 2021 issue of Ed McNulty’s Visual Parables Journal, which is packed with complete discussion guides to moves including House of Gucci, Red Notice, Ted Lasso, True Story and many 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:

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Cover Story: May we all have a creative Christmas this year!

Lucille Sider Shares her Creative Coleus Christmas

WHATEVER YOUR FAITH MAY BE, we all can agree that “peace on earth” is the fondest hope of Christmas. Our challenge is finding ways to promote peace among family and friends. After the tensions and tragedies of 2021, that calls for real Christmas creativity! That’s the theme of our cover story from author Lucille Sider, who writes from her Chicago neighborhood about a horticultural project that involves friends and family in a delightfully red-and-green tribute to the power of nature to surprise and inspire us. Have you ever heard of a Coleus Christmas? Well, then, enjoy Lucille’s story and share it with friends.

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Holidays & Festivals

From David Gushee

A Special Advent Series

DR. DAVID GUSHEE, America’s leading Christian ethicist, has published an inspiring and thought-provoking three-part series about the meaning of Jesus’s “incarnation,” which is the core of the Christmas story for 2 billion Christians around the world. All three parts of Dr. Gushee’s series now are available on the Baptist Global News Network under these headlines:

In early 2022, our publishing-house team will launch Dr. Gushee’s major new book, Introducing Christian Ethics: Core Convictions for Christians Today(Note: That Amazon link gives visitors an early peek at the cover of the book, which will be released in February.)

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From Bill Tammeus

2,000 Years After Mary?

JOURNALIST BILL TAMMEUS writes from a different perspective about the Advent story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. He begins: “Next weekend, as Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, considerable attention will be paid to a woman who, in effect, made Christmas possible—Mary, the mother of Jesus,” then he raises the ironic truth: “And yet even today vast stretches of world religions are patriarchal.” Then, Bill points us toward a whole series of stories about the progress of women in religion, including in Islam, where Mary also is highly revered. Please read Bill’s column and share it with friends.

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‘Las Posadas’ continues

DECEMBER 16 was the first day of a Hispanic Christian tradition that takes the Christmas story into the streets in a traditional procession depicting Mary and Joseph looking for shelter in Bethlehem. The observance runs through December 24 in many Latino communities. Stephanie Fenton has this story for us—and, yes, she includes links to some tasty recipes and songs appropriate for the occasion.

 

LOOKING FOR GREAT GIFT-GIVING IDEAS? Did you know that Americans are reading, and are shopping for books, now more than ever? In a special Holiday Gift Giving column in our Front Edge Publishing website, Susan Stitt describes six new books that may be a perfect choice for a friend or loved one. AND PLEASE NOTE: This photo and Susan’s column includes Bill Tammeus’s newest book, Love, Loss and Endurance. If you have come to enjoy Bill’s wise and thoughtful writing, you’re sure to enjoy that memoir.

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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 to learn more about the December 2021 issue of Ed McNulty’s Visual Parables Journal, which is packed with complete discussion guides to moves including House of Gucci, Red Notice, Ted Lasso, True Story and many 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:

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

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Practical Spiritual Advice for Older Men and Women

A Perfect Gift in Multi-Generational Families

EVERY YEAR, our online magazine features a Cover Story interview with Missy Buchanan, the nation’s leading author specializing in bringing spiritual solace to men and women who are in their mid-70s or older. This is her 10th book and we’ve been following her work for more than a decade, now. Yes, she is writing for a very specific niche within the genre of inspirational writing—but please read our Cover Story this week to learn why Missy’s work is regarded as a gift in thousands of multi-generational families nationwide. Then, please, share this story with friends. You may be surprised by how many friends will be glad you shared this story with them. In this Cover Story, we also include links to Missy’s very popular Facebook page as well as to some of her other books that are treasured by her readers.

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FROM OUR WRITERS—

Suzy Farbman

Want a dose of inspiration?

This Global Peacemaker Now Is Spreading Awareness of Visual Disabilities—Including Her Own

Our God-Signs columnist Suzy Farbman talks with global peacemaker Wendi Dwyer, whose specialty for many years included helping to successfully resettle refugees and developing educational programs. Then, her own eyesight began to fail. Did that stop Wendi? No. Now, her advocacy includes spreading awareness of the millions of Americans with visual disabilities, including her own.

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Martin Davis

After Defeat—

How Do We Renew Our Energy for Each New Day?

JOURNALIST MARTIN DAVIS is writing some of the most important columns about the everyday challenges we face in living out our values, strengthening our relationships with others and trying our best to build healthy communities. His latest column appears in the Christian Science Monitor and is headlined: After defeat—Lessons learned coaching high school football

To learn more about Martin’s work—and for news about his upcoming book 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches—please visit his new author’s website, as well. While you’re there, click on the convenient button for Martin’s “Email Sign Up.” That way you’ll get occasional updates about his writing, which is touching readers’ lives nationwide in unique and thoughtful ways.

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Holidays & Festivals

Setting out on ‘Las Posadas’

DECEMBER 16 is the first day of a Hispanic Christian tradition that takes the Christmas story into the streets in a traditional procession depicting Mary and Joseph looking for shelter in Bethlehem. Stephanie Fenton has this story for us—and, yes, she includes links to some tasty recipes and songs appropriate for the occasion.

What is the ‘Christmas Story’?

JOURNALIST BILL TAMMEUS, this week, writes a very thoughtful column that he has headlined: Preparing to Hear the Core Power of the Christmas Story. His column begins: “As Christians move through this season of Advent and its culmination, Christmas, it’s a good time to remember that what gives the Bible its power, its resilience, its hold on the hearts and minds of so many people is not the literal history it may record. Rather, its power comes from the stories it tells and the ways it tells them.”

 

LOOKING FOR GREAT GIFT-GIVING IDEAS? Did you know that Americans are reading, and are shopping for books, now more than ever? In a special Holiday Gift Giving column in our Front Edge Publishing website, Susan Stitt describes six new books that may be a perfect choice for a friend or loved one. AND PLEASE NOTE: This photo and Susan’s column includes Bill Tammeus’s newest book, Love, Loss and Endurance. If you have come to enjoy Bill’s wise and thoughtful writing, you’re sure to enjoy that memoir.

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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 photo to read Ed McNulty’s review of Disney’s new Encanto.

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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:

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Our latest books are great gift ideas for friends and loved ones

We’re Sparking Creativity from Childhood through Old Age

Our Peacemakers Also Guide Us in Coping with Tragedy and Loss

THIS YEAR AS YOU SHOP FOR LOVED ONES, please consider some of the very timely books produced by our authors. In this Cover Story, Front Edge Publishing’s Susan Stitt describes a half dozen of these books. They are inspiring and several of them are packed with great ideas for families to explore in the new year. And, please, help all of our authors by sharing this story with friends on email and social media.

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From Our Writers

Suzy Farbman

Hard-earned Lessons from a Couple Who Survived a Tough Battle with COVID

Our God-Signs columnist returns to our magazine this week with the inspiring story of famous Indianapolis restaurateur Steve Huse and his months-long odyssey with COVID. Despite more than 100 days in a hospital, much of that time on a ventilator, Steve survived—then had to relearn basic life skills such as how to walk again. Through it all, his wife Lila rallied family and friends to boost Steve’s spirits. Now, Lila shares some of the lessons her family learned in helping to bring Steve through his life-and-death struggle.

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Mindy Corporon

How Can We Helpfully Respond after a School Shooting?

MINDY CORPORON is a nationally known advocate for the thousands of families affected by tragedies each year—drawing on hard-earned wisdom she has gathered after a terrorist attack struck her family. Now, Mindy’s life’s work has become a multi-faceted effort to share spiritual solace as well as very practical ideas for coping with trauma and loss. Her podcasts and programs already have helped men, women and young people nationwide. So, this week, when a 15-year-old gunman unleashed a shooting rampage inside a Michigan high school, Mindy immediately responded with examples of the many practical ways neighbors can respond. Please, read this timely column in our We Are Caregivers section and share it with friends.

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Bill Tammeus

In the Mysteriously Inspiring Flint Hills

JOURNALIST Bill Tammeus takes us this week to the Flint Hills. If you’ve never heard of this awe-inspiring stretch of America, here’s just one line from Bill’s column: “The plains, the Flint Hills, the prairie—these, too, are active mystery, fresh every minute.Enjoy! 

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Holidays & Festivals

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, the man behind our beloved Santa Claus stories—St. Nicholas or Sinterklas or San Nicola—will be celebrated by Christians around the world. Our Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton reports on this festival, which a growing number of American Christian families are celebrating as a religious antidote to the commercialization of the Christmas holiday.

STEPHANIE ALSO REPORTS ON the start of the Western Christian Advent season, this year, on November 28. She includes a link to making a DIY Advent wreath with candles for each Sunday of Advent.

AND, she reports as well on the start of the Eastern Orthodox Nativity Fast, the traditional period of preparing for Christmas, which began even before American Thanksgiving this year.

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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 photo to read Ed McNulty’s review of “Passing.”

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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.

THIS WEEK, Ed McNulty also adapted his coverage of the thought-provoking film Sons and Daughters of Thunder for the audience at the Presbyterian Church-USA’s international website, focusing on how the film’s themes of racial justice are directly connected to Presbyterians.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns:

  1. PASSING—Ed writes, “Actress Rebecca Hall steps behind the camera to co-write and direct this adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 Harlem Renaissance novel about two light-skinned black women able to fool a racist society by passing as white.”
  2. TED LASSO—In this column, Ed does what he does best: He draws parallels between pop culture and our spiritual traditions. In this case, Ed writes about how the popular TV series Ted Lasso could be enjoyed as a series of illustrations of Jesus’ Beatitudes.
  3. TICK, TICK … BOOM—Lin-Manuel Miranda directs Steven Levenson’s adaptation of the autobiographical one-man stage show by Rent writer Jonathan Larson.
  4. FINCH—Ed writes, “If Tom Hanks and a volley ball can hold our attention in Castaway, then how much more will this be so when you replace his buddy ‘Wilson’ with a cute dog named Goodyear and a sentient robot? Be prepared to laugh and cry while watching this dystopian film.”
  5. MIDNIGHT MASS—Ed writes, “Director Mike Flanagan’s 7-part horror series is a bloody but fascinating tale of misplaced faith, heroism and sacrifice that provides plenty of food for thought and discussion, even if it fizzles out a bit with the director/writer’s pantheistic view over-riding the Christian faith of the story’s characters. I was intrigued that a Biblical book is used for the name of each episode.”
  6. KING RICHARD—Ed gives 5 stars to this film that focuses on the father behind the Williams sisters’ careers in tennis.
  7. CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG—Ed writes, “Based on beloved Scholastic book characters, this new adventure films will be enjoyed by families looking for nonviolent but exciting entertainment.”
  8. BELFAST—”Director/writer Kenneth Branagh joins a long line of filmmakers who find rich treasure in mining their childhood experiences.
  9. THE FRENCH DISPATCH—”The director of The Grand Budapest Hotel is back, and with another film even more quirky that serves as an homage to The New Yorker Magazine.”
  10. THE HEROEd urges fans of the venerable Sam Elliott not to miss this film.

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