Cover Story: Join us in launching ‘Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging’

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Join the Authors and Sponsoring Nonprofits in This Launch

You’ll Learn Ways to Help Others—and Your Own Family!

OUR COVER STORY this week is our launch announcement for one of the most important books we have published since our founding 15 years ago. This book is a practical guide to dozens of issues families face as we age. Millions of American families have discovered these challenges with little warning or help.

Over the past year, more than a dozen community agencies and nonprofits joined with 15 authors to share their expertise in creating a one-volume resource for families and caregivers. The book is called simply, Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging. And please note: This is about much more than the problems we may face in aging. This book represents a “strengths-based” encouragement for all of us to rethink and appreciate the gifts of aging, as well.

Please, click this link to visit the registration page for our national launch event at Noon (Eastern Time) on Tuesday March 23. The landing page explains more about the book. The event is free and is open to everyone. In this 45-minute event, you will meet some of the book’s expert authors and sponsors and will come away energized to help others. Tell friends about this opportunity by sharing the registration-page link: www.NowWhatBookLaunch.com

When you sign up, you will receive an email confirming your registration—and providing several options to connect to this Zoom gathering. Closer to the launch date, you will receive a reminder, as well.

Also on that page, you will find a link to pre-order this book on Amazon right now. If you order now, books will ship from Amazon on the launch date. Please, join us! You’ll learn how you can help others—and your family as well.

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More Good News and Views from Our Authors

Brenda Rosenberg: Girl Scouts Build Interfaith Unity

INTERFAITH PEACE ACTIVIST BRENDA ROSENBERG has been working with Girl Scouts to establish a widespread appreciation of religious diversity. This effort fits perfectly into the Girl Scouts’ longstanding encouragement of religious awareness through its My Promise, My Faith program. One year ago, our magazine covered a huge Michigan-wide event Brenda co-sponsored at the Detroit Institute of Arts to kick off this new effort to encourage interfaith awareness. This year, a special educational event celebrating religious diversity is scheduled for National Girl Scout Week, March 7-13, which includes what is sometimes called National Girl Scout Day. That’s March 12, each year. In 2021, that is the 109th anniversary of the date in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low formally registered the organization.

Brenda explains that this year’s special interfaith event runs from March 11 through March 14—all online this year—and helps girls in grades 4 through 12 to earn their My Promise, My Faith pin. Brenda emailed us this week to ask ReadTheSpirit readers to spread the news to any girls who may want to register. “This event is not limited to current Girl Scouts,” she said. So, if you know a girl who would enjoy attending—please spread the news with this link to register.

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Suzy Farbman: ‘The soundtrack that makes up a life’

THIS WEEK, OUR GOD-SIGNS COLUMN by Suzy Farbman asks us to “listen” back on our journeys through this pandemic year through musical memories. For Suzy, those memories include the late great Leonard Cohen and New York-area drama critic Arlene Epstein.

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Larry Buxton: Welcoming guests

HOSPITALITY AMONG OUR AUTHORS continues to spread, this week, as Larry Buxton’s weekly Leading With Spirit video series welcomes a guest. That’s Larry at left (above) introducing his guest (at right)—and, by extension, he’s welcoming yet another guest as well: Lincoln scholar Duncan Newcomer. This national conversation among our authors raises fascinating questions about our lives together as Americans. And, “questions” may be a key to learning how to talk with each other without shouting, Larry Buxton tells us this week. He says, “A certain uncertainty is the road to wisdom.” Please, visit Larry’s website to watch this 4-minute video. While you’re there, sign up for a free email reminder, each week, of his latest Leading with Spirit messages.

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Ken Whitt: Talking with Authority

QUITE LITERALLY, our author Ken Whitt’s new book God Is Just Love is so newsworthy that he wound up talking with Authority this week. Authority online magazine, that is. This is becoming a popular online hub for stories that connect influential “thought leaders.” Authority is the brainchild of self-described “thought leader” and “positive influencer” Yitzi Weiner who wants to use the Internet to spread helpful information. Ken was interviewed in a series on “social impact authors” by Edward Sylvan, who also is a leading media influencer. In this online circle, Ken was lifted up in this inspiring profile because of his multi-faceted approach to helping families adapt to the world’s many challenges. Want to help with that kind of positive effort? Go read this story in Authority and share it with friends—better yet, hop over to Amazon and buy a copy of Ken’s book.

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Holidays & Festivals

St. Patrick’s Day

ST. PATRICK’S DAY may be a secular occasion in many communities, but it also has deep religious roots that matter to millions.

OUR COVERAGE OFTEN focuses on Catholic traditions—so, this year, we invited a Protestant-Anglican writer to reflect on the holiday. In her long and remarkable career, the Rev. Dr. Kate Jacobs has been both a leading Baptist and an Episcopalian. She sent us this fascinating column from her religious perspective on how St. Patrick’s legendary battle with serpents is relevant today.

WANT MORE? INCLUDING RECIPES AND CRAFTS FOR KIDS? Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton previews the festival—with delicious and fun links as well. She also has links to three different versions of St. Patrick’s beloved “Breastplate” prayer—including the original Gaelic.

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Maha Shivaratri

THURSDAY, MARCH 11: Fasting, worship and ritual baths for Lord Shiva are followed by a nighttime vigil on Maha Shivaratri, a holiday observed across India and by Hindus around the world. Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton has the story for us.

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Judy’s Proofreading Day

MONDAY, MARCH 8, these days, is sometimes labeled “National Proofreading Day,” which shows what online entrepreneurs like Judy Beaver, aka “The Office Pro,” can do when they are determined to leave their mark—at least on some calendars. Judy dreamed up this “holiday” with a well-placed press release in 2012 for a noble purpose: She wanted an occasion each year when all “professionals” who write would be reminded of the importance of copy editors. From her Chicago base, Judy sells training services in writing and editing so the “holiday” was originally a clever sales pitch. After eight years, though, her holiday keeps showing up online. So, we are sending out a “thank you” to Judy—because we wholeheartedly agree with her instinct. Yes, everyone who writes needs and editor. In fact, that’s what our Dmitri Barvinok writes in this fun and informative Front Edge Publishing column about copy editing. This column already has become a favorite with readers—and editors!

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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 this cover image from the March 2021 issue of Visual Parables Journal to learn about this new issue.

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. THE DIG—Ed writes, “Director Simon Stone and writer Moira Buffini’s adaptation of John Preston’s fact-based novel deals with classism as well as archaeological excavation, friendship, and romance. Beautifully photographed, it could serve well as family entertainment in that one of the characters is a winsome boy eager to explore the world and who finds a substitute father in the main male character.”
  2. MANGROVE—”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.” The film is streaming now for free on Amazon Prime in the Small Axe series of films.
  3. AMAZON: SEE THE ENTIRE ‘SMALL AXE’ SERIES—Ed also reviews and recommends other films in Steve McQueen’s series of films, which are clustered under the series title Small Axe on Amazon Prime. After Mangrove, Ed’s other Small Axe reviews are Lovers Rock, Red, White and Blue, Alex Wheatle and Education.
  4. COME BEFORE WINTER—”There have been numerous films about the martyred German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but Kevin Ekvall’s  2017 docudrama gives us an unusual take on him by pairing his story with that of a British team commissioned to broadcast anti-Hitler views and false stories to deceive the enemy.” The film also is streaming on Amazon.
  5. BOOGIE—”Director/writer Eddie Huang comes up with a new twist for a basketball film—a Chinese-American player. Alfred ‘Boogie’ Chin (Taylor Takahashi) is the player living in Queens, New York.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.”
  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.”.

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Cover Story: Welcoming the millions of “other” Christians around the world as they prepare for Great Lent

Learning about the lives of nearly 300 million Christians

ORTHODOX GREAT LENT BEGINS THIS MONTH

Right now in America, there’s not a hotter question than: What does it mean to be “Christian”? Of course, that question is freighted with our own “local” political meaning in the United States today. Here at ReadTheSpirit magazine, our goal week after week is to cover global religious and cultural diversity—because we believe that learning about diversity leads to healthier communities.

Around the world, Christians make up nearly a third of the total population, according to Pew Research. However, North America is home to only about 12 percent of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians. That means our American battles over who can be called a “Christian” can sound like a local family feud among the nearly 2 billion Christians who live in South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.

This week’s cover story reminds us, as Americans, about a vast swath of Christianity—nearly 300 million Christians who most Americans tend to forget: the Orthodox. Thanks to researcher Kevin Vollrath and our long-time friend Mae Cannon, ReadTheSpirit plans to bring readers a monthly story from this ancient Eastern branch of Christianity.

We start this week with a story about Father Elias Khoury, a Greek Orthodox priest in Jadeidi, Israel, who is preparing for Great Lent to begin on March 15. That may surprise many of our readers, because we reported on the start of Lent for Western Christians last month! In fact, this year, the Western and Orthodox calendars vary by almost an entire month. Please, read this week’s Cover Story, enjoy learning about how this vast Christian community marks the days leading up to Easter—and share this story with friends.

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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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News and Views from our Authors

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Rabbi Krakoff at a book signing for Never Long Enough.

RABBI JOSEPH KRAKOFF: ‘The Forgiveness Tour’

RABBI KRAKOFF is a leading expert on grief and end-of-life decisions. He is the author of Never Long Enough: Finding Comfort and Hope Amidst Grief and Lossand he also appears as an expert in a couple of the other books we are publishing this year: Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging as well as Shining Brightly, an upcoming memoir by Howard Brown.

Krakoff’s expertise also is showing up in national headlines, these days, because he appears in Susan Shapiro’s new book from Simon & Schuster, The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find the Perfect Apology. There’s a family connection between Shapiro and the rabbi, so he was on her short list of sages she consulted for her book.

Now, as Shapiro and her book are turning up in various national media stories, so is Rabbi Krakoff since he was part of her “tour” of scholars. An example this week is an NBC News story headlined, The Britney Spears effect: Is Justin Timberlake’s Janet Jackson apology too little too late? Can you guess how Krakoff might play a role in that celebrity story? Well, take a look at the NBC story; Krakoff’s advice appears briefly in the second half of that NBC story.

The point of this ReadTheSpirit news item is: Our authors work on books with us because their real vocation is to add helpful wisdom to the national conversation. Rabbi Krakoff certainly is doing that in many ways.

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SUZY FARBMAN: ‘We’re the artists of our own lives’

THIS WEEK, GOD-SIGNS COLUMN by Suzy Farbman invites us to explore the remarkably creative life of Junia Doan, who continues to inspire the world now through online videos.

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VICTOR BEGG: ‘Where can we find light?’

INDIAN-AMERICAN MUSLIM PEACE ACTIVIST Victor Begg opens his column in the huge IslamiCity web magazine by reminding us of Amanda Gorman’s poem at the inauguration in January. Then, Victor reflects on what should be the legacy of Black History Month for Americans of all colors.

He calls on readers to expand their awareness of how much we all have benefitted from the civil rights activism of those who have come before us—especially immigrant families. Thinking of all the people of color who risked their lives in this movement, Victor writes, “The path to my own successes in America is paved by their sacrifices, while they continue to struggle under institutionalized racism to this day.”

Victor is the author of Our Muslim Neighbors: Achieving the American Dream, an Immigrant’s Memoir.

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Clifford Worthy, center, and his extended family.

CLIFFORD WORTHY: ‘Think about how things could change’

AND SPEAKING OF THE STRUGGLE for inclusion, Col. Clifford Worthy—author of The Black Knight: An African-American Family’s Journey from West Point-a Life of Duty, Honor and Country—is featured in Business Insider online magazine this week, talking about his own history as the oldest living Black graduate of West Point. Business Insider contacted “two celebrated Black veterans” to comment on the nation’s first African-American defense secretary.

Worthy, who will be 93 years old in March, was one of the two Black leaders who told Insider it was “amazing” how much racial attitudes have changed in the US military.

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A community of authors sharing good news

A LITTLE HOSPITALITY GOES A LONG WAY! In our Front Edge Publishing column this week, Editor David Crumm writes about the powerful ways our authors can extend hospitality to each other—with a timely example from Ken Whitt’s Traces of God Ministries website. The Traces news item we are highlighting includes an inspiring 4-minute video about the nearly lost core value of integrity, courtesy of Larry BuxtonWhen we work together like this, our good news moves farther and faster in the world.

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Click this image from the movie The Dig to read Ed McNulty’s review of this Netflix film.

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. THE DIG—Ed writes, “Director Simon Stone and writer Moira Buffini’s adaptation of John Preston’s fact-based novel deals with classism as well as archaeological excavation, friendship, and romance. Beautifully photographed, it could serve well as family entertainment in that one of the characters is a winsome boy eager to explore the world and who finds a substitute father in the main male character.”
  2. MANGROVE—”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.” The film is streaming now for free on Amazon Prime in the Small Axe series of films.
  3. AMAZON: SMALL AXE series—Ed also reviews and recommends other films in Steve McQueen’s series of films, which are clustered under the series title Small Axe on Amazon Prime. After Mangrove, Ed’s other Small Axe reviews are Lovers Rock, Red, White and Blue, Alex Wheatle and Education.
  4. COME BEFORE WINTER—”There have been numerous films about the martyred German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but Kevin Ekvall’s  2017 docudrama gives us an unusual take on him by pairing his story with that of a British team commissioned to broadcast anti-Hitler views and false stories to deceive the enemy.” The film also is streaming on Amazon.
  5. BOOGIE—”Director/writer Eddie Huang comes up with a new twist for a basketball film—a Chinese-American player. Alfred ‘Boogie’ Chin (Taylor Takahashi) is the player living in Queens, New York.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.”
  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.”.

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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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