As the High Holidays of 5779 begin, please meet our Jewish authors!

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

JEWISH STORIES FOR EVERYONE

DISCOVER TIMELESS WISDOM—Since ReadTheSpirit online magazine was founded in 2007, along with our publishing house, we have welcomed a diverse family of authors—including Christians, Jews, Muslims and Native Americans. That is a shining example of hope in these turbulent times, when minorities often are pitted against each other.

As this year’s Jewish High Holidays begin, we want to shine a spotlight on our Jewish authors. Check out these links, below, and you will find books that will make you laugh as well as cry—that will delight and inspire—and that are likely to make you want to roll up your sleeves and work on peacemaking, yourself. The world certainly could use your help. Please, start by meeting one of these authors via the convenient links that take you to their Amazon pages.

RABBI JACK RIEMER—The late Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel described the rabbi’s storytelling this way: “Jack Riemer’s words are songs of hope and faith. Listen to them as I do.” Finding God in Unexpected Places also is our newest book of Jewish wisdom, drawn from the holiday-themed teachings of this master storyteller.

RABBI ROBERT ALPER—Best known as a full-time standup comic and a star of satellite radio’s “clean comedy” channels, Alper shares some of his favorite stories in two volumes: Life Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This and Thanks. I Needed That.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

RABBI JOSEPH KRAKOFF—Collaborating with artist Michelle Sider, Krakoff transforms his years of expertise with the Jewish Hospice Network into an illustrated book for families to treasure—either before or after the end of a loved one’s life. Never Long Enough is an invitation for families to gather around a loved one, open this richly illustrated book and share their own stories as these pages turn. This is a unique treasure for families from any spiritual background. If you are in southeast Michigan, Krakoff and Sider are launching a new coloring book / workbook supplement to their popular book on September 16 at the Huntington Woods Library.

BRENDA ROSENBERG—Jewish peace activist and trainer Brenda Rosenberg collaborated with Arab-American pro-Palestinian activist Samia Bahsoun on Harnessing the Power of Tension, A paradoxical approach to building alliances at home, in the board room, on campus and in communitiesThat lengthy title captures the value of their thought-provoking guidebook.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

DEBRA DARVICK—Want to know more about the Jewish holidays? We highly recommend a classic, This Jewish Life, Stories of Discovery, Connection and Joy. Debra takes us through the Jewish year, marking the major observances with inspiring true stories by a wide range of men and women.

LYNNE MEREDITH GOLODNER—Want a taste of the holidays? The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads includes two delicious challah recipes—as well as stories and recipes from other religious and cultural traditions.

WISDOM WOMEN—The new edition of Friendship and Faith has more than 50 true, inspiring stories of women daring to cross religious boundaries to form new friendships. Many of the women who contributed their stories to this book are Jewish.

LINDA JARKEY—Collaborating with her sister, artist Julie Jarkey-Kozlowski, these two veteran educators created a new kind of children’s picture book, Sadie Sees Trouble. The theme is timely: A little girl’s beloved dog Sadie struggles to regain the girl’s attention when she becomes obsessed with a new digital device. Readers also are invited to download free coloring pages to take part in this creative adventure.

ROBERT PASICK—Veteran teacher and psychologist Robert Pasick offers wisdom for successful living in his guidebook, Balanced Leadership in Unbalanced Timesand his reflections on Conversations with My Old Dog.

SUZY FARBMAN—You’re likely to laugh and cry as you journey with journalist Suzy Farbman through her spiritual adventures in survival from a dire diagnosis of cancer. Her book-length memoir is called GodSigns.

In addition, Suzy writes a weekly column called GodSigns, which introduces readers of magazine to remarkable men and women who make our world a better place each day.

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Benjamin Pratt on the James Bond Bible Study: ‘Do you have the courage to open your eyes?’

On the 10th anniversary of publishing Benjamin Pratt’s book that is best known as The James Bond Bible Study, we are releasing a newly updated Kindle version of the book. If you haven’t read Ben Pratt’s thought-provoking book about 007 and the world’s most dangerous sins, this is a perfect time to visit Amazon and buy the affordable digital edition. As you will learn in Ben’s story today, this is a great choice for small-group discussion. Of course, you still can order the original paperback edition.

Click on the cover to visit the iBook page.

By BENJAMIN PRATT
Author and Columnist

“Do you have the courage to open your eyes to the many guises of evil in our times?”

That’s a line from a reviewer’s recommendation of my book, Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins and 007’s Moral Compass, which was published 10 years ago this autumn. When readers got their first look at this book, late in 2008, the world was full of hope. President Obama had just been elected on a groundswell of “Hope”—the word was splashed across his campaign posters. Although we all were grappling with a catastrophic financial crisis, the global mood seemed hopeful, as well. Australia, for example, reached its historic milestone of issuing a nationwide apology for the treatment of indigenous people. The world’s future seemed bright.

So, back in 2008, many readers wondered: Why should we take time to ponder our human capacity for evil?

Today, global headlines have dramatically changed. The title of Bob Woodward’s new mega-bestseller is one word: Fear. Once again, author Ian Fleming is proven to be prophetic when he undertook his years-long reflection on the so-called Seven Deadly Sins.

You can order the newly updated digital edition of Ben Pratt’s book from Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook—or from the iBook store as well as Google Books. (NOTE: As of Monday, September 17, there was a delay in the Amazon Kindle availability. We will update this story and add the Kindle link when the book goes live on Amazon.)

‘PERFECT FOR SMALL-GROUP STUDY’

That reviewer I quoted in my opening line made a similar point. Here is the rest of that 5-star review:

I don’t generally give any book a 5-star rating. However, in this case, I felt as if I owed as much to the author because of my initial skepticism: “A Bible study with James Bond? I think not.” I once met a Christian who was enthralled by the Star Trek movies and prided herself with her ability to speak Klingon. Seven Deadlier Sins and 007’s Moral Compass had to be just another example of a Christian infatuated with movies. I was wrong. Take a look. This book is much more than James Bond. It is about our society and you—the strengths and weaknesses of our moral compass. Do you have the courage to open your eyes to the “many guises of evil in our times”? The questions Pratt poses are contemporary, relevant and perfect for a small-group Bible study setting. Don’t get hung up on the immorality portrayed in the James Bond movies. Read the original literary texts of the James Bond series, which are so much more satisfying than the films, and you will recognize the Biblical themes which Benjamin Pratt desires for us to consider.

‘PARABLES ABOUT EVIL PEOPLE’

For years I have been bewildered by the staying power of the traditional Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, envy, anger, sloth, covetousness, gluttony and lust. These were the sins that threatened order in the monasteries—they were not the sins upon which Jesus focused. In his teaching, Jesus focused on avarice, hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Gluttony is surely a problem in our first world society, but hardly a universal evil impacting the whole world.

It was not until I began reading and studying Fleming’s “Bond, James Bond,” that I was convinced that Bond was a knight out to slay these contemporary dragons threatening our lives. All of Fleming’s 007 tales follow a common theme that he identified in his first Bond novel, Casino Royale, as parables about evil people. Fleming’s stories have considerable mythological, allegorical and theological depth that are compelling to this day. Fleming’s total James Bond opus (the 14 books as a whole) was the first contemporary narrative treatment of the centuries-old Seven Deadly Sins.

Fleming says unequivocally that the traditional code of sins would no longer keep one out of Heaven, according to the culture of our modern era.

So, he analyzed that older list, devising his own step-by-step contemporary and provocative critique of the ways we think about sin. For Fleming, one sin—accidie, the original form of Sloth—could never be considered a virtue. Fleming, who was plagued with black, slothful moods all his life, believed that accidie, a form of spiritual suicide and a refusal of joy, deserved his complete denunciation because he had known its despair so often. However, except for accidie, Fleming found most of the traditional Seven Deadly Sins to be closer to virtues in contemporary culture.

SEVEN DEADLY SINS AS HEADLINE NEWS

While an editor on the staff of the Sunday Times, Fleming suggested the famous London-based newspaper publish a series of essays on the traditional Seven Deadly Sins. Fleming later saw that this collection of essays was published as a now out-of-print book called simply, The Seven Deadly Sins. In his Foreword to that volume, Fleming lays out seven modern deadlier sins, a list that turns out to be a roadmap to his overarching intention for writing the James Bond novels. Fleming’s modern sins that will send people to Hell are: Avarice, Cruelty, Snobbery, Hypocrisy, Self-righteousness, Moral Cowardice and Malice.

Fleming voiced his hope that someone of equal caliber to the seven essayists would write about his list or their own list of deadlier sins. Then, finding no takers of his challenge, Fleming began to pour out his own series of novels.

Fleming, often considered a literary light-weight in his day, actually gave us far more than run-of-the-mill adventure stories. He wrote mythical parables of evil people in which, novel after novel, he sketched out the baseline of evil against which we can measure goodness. To counter these evil people, his Bond is a modern-day St. George who slays the dragons and confronts the moral dilemmas that spring from the confusing lures of modern culture.

In the James Bond tales, Fleming repeatedly references the original Seven. Then, he illustrates his deadlier list, personifying each of his sins in the evil characters Bond pursues—as well as in Bond himself.

In the Bond thrillers we are told that there are other agents: 008, 0011 (not an accident since historically there were times that the number of deadly sins was 8 and 11). In Fleming’s version of the British secret service, the double 00 designation gives the agent the right to kill. It is no accident that Mr. Bond is 007. He has the right to kill all of Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins.

The evil characters Bond is fighting are fascinating, brilliant villains, often more interesting than James Bond himself. They are larger-than-life caricatures of the evil they personify. Bond is in pursuit of the agents of the Devil. To meet the evil figures in Fleming’s writings is to meet the Devil whom Fleming regarded as a deadly serious threat to our world.

‘FLAWED WARRIORS ON A SPIRITUAL BATTLEFIELD’

This is what Ian Fleming has done in the 007 series. James Bond, as presented in the Fleming novels, is less than a perfect man who often drops his guard, is captured by his enemy, and yet fights with loyalty and courage to escape the clutches of the dragon. This parallels Fleming’s life struggle as it does the life struggle of many of us who know that we are flawed warriors on a spiritual battlefield.

Throughout his career, Fleming took the personal pain of his spiritual battles and converted that into the creative energy of myths and parables. Fleming’s Bond novels, short stories and even Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, which he wrote in a hospital bed as he recovered from his first heart attack, are parables, stories, and myths about the evil within us, the evil around us, the spiritual war we face with the demons and dragons of our lives.

DISCUSSED IN GROUPS AROUND THE WORLD

Now in 2018, we can clearly see why Fleming was such a prophet. Daily we are confronted with extravagant greed, violence, snobbery, hypocrisy, self-righteousness and spineless moral cowardice. That is why this book has been discussed in small groups around our world. I have heard personally from folks describing how my book and subsequent conversations with friends have raised soul-searching questions.

Many of these words of thanks have come from people who have encountered serious losses that stifled their joy, energy and hope. They had never heard of accidie, but discovered that this traditional term was helpful in identifying their seemingly insurmountable burden. A phrase like, “Shaken, not stirred,” took on new meaning. Their lives had been deeply shaken but they had lost the energy and focus to be stirred. That is the temptation of accidie—a life that loses all capacity for joy and deadens any sense of mission. By naming and discussing that temptation, many readers have told me they took new steps toward relief.

For those who have suffered from accidie—or any of these deadly temptations Fleming explored—I hope that my book will continue to become a vehicle for self-examination, group reflection and ultimately the healing of souls.

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The Original ‘Outlaw Christian,’ Jacqueline Bussie Leaps from Despair to ‘Love Without Limits’

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Jacqueline Bussie is the original Outlaw Christian, the title of her hugely popular debut book released by a conservative Christian publishing house. In that book, she laid out her case that a whole new category of Christianity is needed to embrace the millions of people who are excluded by rigid evangelical culture. She urged readers to push back when so-called Christians say they must: “Never question.” Or insist: “Never tell your real story.” Or preach: “Always believe hope comes easily for those who truly love God.”

She called on her readers to bust those myths and join her in a new “Outlaw Christianity,” which she defined in that first book as:

  1. A new, life-gving faith for those who ache for a more authentic relationship with God and other people by no longer having to hide their doubt, anger, grief, scars or questions.
  2. An honest, outside-the-law faith for those seeking a hope that really speaks to the world’s hurt.

THE OUTLAW IS—CAUGHT!

The problem came when Bussie—a professor of religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota—actually became an Outlaw Christian.

Based on the success of her first book, her future as an author seemed assured. What Bussie did not realize is that her “outlaw” idea was edgy and popular with her evangelical editors—until she revealed the next steps she wanted to take in her spiritual journey. In writing this new book, Bussie simply assumed that her editors would follow her lead in calling for loving relationships with actual “outsiders”—including Muslim and LGBTQ friends.

Suddenly, her publisher balked. This was truly outlaw territory in evangelical publishing! When they got a full look at her manuscript, back at the publishing house, they apparently slapped their foreheads as they realized: Ohhh, so that’s what she meant in her first book! Now, her outlaw status had become more than just exciting talk that would sell lots of books. It was a real problem for her editors—and for Bussie. She was caught in one of the deepest divides in American culture today.

To put this in perspective, the American publishing industry’s approach to the “Christian market” is split across a Grand Canyon-size gulf of LGBTQ inclusion. Almost as wide and deep is the gulf over whether evangelicals are willing to recognize Muslims as Abrahamic brothers and sisters. Some evangelical “Christian” authors have been able to tiptoe toward friendly relationships with Muslims and still remain in the evangelical camp. But trying to leap across the LGBTQ canyon in a single bound? That quest is doomed—and brings instant exile from the ever-shrinking circle of “Christian” booksellers.

Clearly, Bussie’s editors were asleep at the switch when they approved her original outline for the new book, which included those transgressive chapters. On the other hand, Bussie should not have been surprised when executives at her publishing house finally woke up to what she really meant about Outlaw Christianity.

She faced an ultimatum: She had to cut out all the material in her new manuscript about these two groups.

She dared to ask: What if I refuse?

That choice was dire. Her first book had been such a big hit that Bussie scored an up-front advance payment on the royalties from her second book—a rare benefit lavished on only the most promising authors these days. She would have to pay back that advance, which she had already spent while taking time to write this second book. Then, even if she paid back the publisher and regained the rights to the manuscript—her book would be dead in the water. She did not have a Plan B publisher.

‘IF I HADN’T BEEN CRYING SO HARD …’

In the introduction to Love Without Limits, Bussie describes her reaction this way:

My heart broke. Not for the book or for me or for the tens of thousands of dollars I’d lost, but for my Muslim and LGBTQ friends whose stories had been censored. Power had asked me to sell them out. To—quite literally—delete them. Of course, if I had done so, every word of this book would have shriveled into a lie. The situation’s irony reared up on its hind legs and stared me down. Think about it: I wrote a book about how people of faith are called to love with no exceptions, asterisks or limits. And then my publisher asked me to make exceptions, add asterisks, and set limits. … If I hadn’t been crying so hard, I might’ve laughed.

What happened next, Bussie believes, was the stirring of God’s Spirit. It also was a sign of the direction the American public is moving, according to the Pew Research Center’s tracking of the majority of Americans who now say they welcome gender diversity.

As she tells the story at the end of this new book, Bussie suffered in silence for months. Her hopes seemed to have crashed and burned for a publishing career that could share the good news of God’s inclusive love far and wide.

“Shame, silence and sadness sank me in their undertow,” she writes. Then, after weeks of this grief and frustration, a friend urged her to publicly tell her story. Bussie realized she had little to lose. So, she wrote a short summary of what had happened to her and the book. Then, as inspiration took hold, she pulled out a roll of duct tape and a thick black Sharpie marker. She wrote the word CENSORED on the tape. She slapped it across her own mouth—and posted the story and the photo on Facebook.

The image went viral—at least, viral enough that it reached the iPhone of the influential and inclusive Christian theologian Tony Jones. At the moment, Jones also happened be acquiring new books for Fortress Press, an imprint associated with the inclusive Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Bussie is a Lutheran. The match was made. The original publisher was paid off. Bussie’s new book is finally on sale nationwide this month—with all the original material in tact, plus some very pointed additions about the need for Christians to resist censorship. The new book even includes Bussie’s infamous duct tape photos.

‘WELCOMING THE OTHER IS THE FUTURE’

Why did Jones move so swiftly?

“When I read the manuscript and saw the importance of the two chapters they wanted to redact, I was gobsmacked,” Jones told Publishers Weekly magazine. “I suppose an evangelical publisher simply thinks that affirmative, loving stories about Muslims and a LGBT couple are just too frightening to their core readership.”

Jones continued: “Even the largest evangelical publishers live in fear. … They’re hypocrites, because they continue to publish other authors with the same views as Jacqueline but who have written bestsellers. Moderate and progressive Christian houses are the future, because welcoming the other is the future.”

GOLDEN IDEAS FOR SMALL GROUPS

Bussie’s 200-page book is divided into two parts, which cover a total of 10 chapters. Along the way, she provides small-group leaders with lots of choices to organize discussions or workshops. The book could be the basis of a weekend retreat. In a weekly series, 10 sessions would be ideal, but a veteran group leader could easily cluster some of Bussie’s chapters to shorten that time commitment.

The book’s first part is titled, “People Who Taught Me to Love.” Within that section, Bussie begins her first chapter where we all begin to really become aware of love—with a true story about her first childhood love way back in Peachtree City, Georgia. Such memories remind us that love is a complex and powerful force!

In her second chapter, she turns to a mother’s love, reflecting on both Proverbs and the Gospel of John’s teaching that “we love others because God first loved us.” The golden moment in this second chapter is Bussie’s list of 40 lessons her mother taught her. If you are envisioning a discussion series, just imagine the fun you could have asking participants to draw up their own list of lessons from Mom or Dad—or both. That would be a small-group exercise people would talk about for quite a while! You could print sheets of paper for participants with a colorful border so that people would be tempted to post their lists on their refrigerator doors. Or, they could snap a photo of their lists and share them on social media. Think Pinterest. Spotting those lists just might prompt more people to join your small group.

That’s Bussie’s real talent. Her vocation is education. She’s taught for many years and writes with the engaging assurance that, first, she needs her audience to pay attention. Then, at regular intervals, she needs to drop golden moments that will engage her readers in personal reflections on—”What if …”

In the third chapter, she turns to Jesus’s startling and still controversial teachings about family. What could be controversial in Jesus’s family values? Check out Luke 14, where Jesus tells his followers that they must turn away from their original families—actually “hate” their relatives. No kidding. That’s even the English translation of Jesus’s words in the popular NIV evangelical translation. What could Jesus possibly mean by such a shocking claim? Well, Bussie encourages readers to discuss that—and you’re sure to spark a spirited discussion, if you try that with friends.

Then, she turns back to the ancient story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers—but managed to build a successful career as the pharaoh’s manager during a famine. She ends that chapter with Joseph’s list of eight lessons about family values. Once again, discussion leaders have a perfect opportunity to turn loose participants on their own lists.

And so the book unfolds. The second part of the book is called “More of Love’s Teachers: Places and Things.” Among those chapters is one about lessons we can learn about love—from feet. Yes—feet. Human feet. Curious? Get a copy of Bussie’s book.

‘NONE OF US CAN WALK AWAY’

When Christian ethicist David Gushee made his dramatic decision to publicly call for gay inclusion, one major inspiration was his decades of research into “righteous Gentiles” during the Holocaust. In our 2016 interview with Gushee about his landmark book Changing Our Mind, Gushee talked about the examples of these non-Jews who often gave up their lives to help their endangered Jewish neighbors. There is no escaping those heroic lessons of Christian compassion for “outsiders,” Gushee said. He continued:

We’re in a period where civil rights and social acceptance for LGBT people have moved ahead of the attitudes of a substantial minority of the mainly religious population. People are left disoriented by all of the progress people are achieving and, while many of them may want to move toward inclusion, they’re not able to get fully to acceptance theologically. So, we’re in an era when we’re going to keep hearing these public calls against acceptance—ranging from hateful and odious appeals to ongoing polite but firm differences over theology. It’s now clear to me that all of us who are allies for LGBT people will be required to help sensitize the many Americans who are struggling to accept what is unfolding. I’ve learned that none of us can walk away. This is a calling we must be ready to respond to every day, for the rest of our lives.

Bussie is also Holocaust scholar. “I’ve made the same connection David Gushee made. We have to pay attention to all the people who are being cast out to the margins in our world. You can only be a Holocaust scholar for so long before you realize that we must reach out to oppressed people today.”

For years, like Gushee, Bussie’s research has focused on oppressed and endangered groups. Among her special interests are African-American slaves—as well as both victims and survivors of the Shoah.

“Studying what happened to so many men and women when people in power remained silent—my spirit inevitably moved toward compassionate listening and speaking out,” Bussie said. Although her publisher was surprised—Bussie said that her public record of inclusive teaching and writing has been crystal clear for many years.

“This is not new for me,” she said. “I’m part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and we pushed for years to have our national church ordain gay folks, bless gay marriages and become an inclusive community. I was always part of that movement, including pieces I published in ethics journals. And, I’ve been teaching this in my Christian Ethics classes for 15 years.”

WHERE IS HOPE?

Pew research shows that, despite troubling incidents and angry conservative voices, the tide is turning. So, why are American attitudes inevitably moving toward acceptance?

Bussie sums it up in one word: “Love.”

That’s born out in Pew research as well. Actually getting to know someone from a minority group softens our hearts. As Bussie put it in our interview: “That’s what changed my attitudes—falling in love with people. Just as I describe it in my book—this is what happens when we get to know friends and neighbors or, in my case, my students. This is what happens when we hear their real stories and respond with compassion. I’m proud to include the story of my gay neighbors, who are such great examples of adoptive parents that all parents can learn from them. Their example sets a high standard for all of us—including me as a straight person. I’m glad I got to know them. I’m glad I could tell their story.

“Then, let’s turn back to the scriptures for a moment,” she said. “Jesus is a perfect example of what we’re talking about here. Why did people want to kill him? In my estimation, they were terrified of the wingspan of his love. His example threatened every boundary they had learned to draw and were trying to defend.

“If people do read this new book, I hope they will walk away from it, first, knowing that they are loved by God without limits—and so is every single person they will encounter each day. The one question I hope they will carry with them is: How will I treat the next person I meet so that I am honoring our common humanity?”

CARE TO READ MORE?

GET THE BOOK—You can order Love without Limits from Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

VISIT HER ON FACEBOOK—Learn more about his ongoing work by following her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacqueline.bussie.

VISIT OUR BOOKSTORES—You’ll find lots of books that explore the challenges of cross-cultural friendship in our own ReadTheSpiritBookstore and our new Front Edge Publishing Bookstore.

 

 

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Reviving Our Soulforce: Reesheda Graham-Washington and Shawn Casselberry Distill Dr. King’s Wisdom into Seven Pivots for Courageous Communities

“In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1963 “I Have a Dream Speech”

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By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit Magazine

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

In this era of daily verbal violence and no-holds-barred political confrontations, two veteran peace-and-justice activists decided to pool their wisdom about how to revive a powerful vision that has inspired them for many years. That vision—often called “soul force” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—originated in the philosophy of nonviolent resistance taught by Mahatma Gandhi.

“Soul force is where the Spirit of God and our human resilience meet. The Spirit doesn’t override our will, nor does it bypass our humanity. The Spirit works in concert and collaboration with our ingenuity gifts and grit,” Reesheda and Shawn write in the introduction to their new book, Soul Force: Seven Pivots toward Courage, Community and Change.

“Soul force is a power that emerges when we align with the Spirit of truth, love and liberation. Soul force is an awakening to the realization that we have a creative force within us, because we all bear the divine imprint of the Creator. But so rarely do we tap into this power.”

Today, they write, we must remember that “Ghandhi and King utilized soul force in their contexts to ignite movements for social change, and we can utilize it for movement in our lives too.”

HOW THEY CONVERGED

Until a few years ago, there was little connection between Reesheda and Shawn, even though they both live and work on Christian community-development projects from their offices in the Chicago area. Reesheda Graham-Washington is executive director of Communities First Association. Shawn Casselberry is executive director of Mission Year. Both nonprofits are part of the evangelical social-action movement that tries to empower people living in at-risk communities to build their own new resources. Their organizations have worked on everything from opening a coffee shop to combatting human trafficking.

“Finally, we met at a protest,” Reesheda recalled in an interview about their new book. It was during a peaceful demonstration against the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer. Video of the shooting revealed that Laquan actually was walking away from officers when he was shot and posed no threat to police. The shooting death touched off nationwide calls for justice.

“So,” Reesheda recalls, “we both found ourselves in the midst of that protest along with a lot of other faith leaders. Then, at the same time, both of us realized that the police were on the margins of our circle where the faith leaders were praying. But no one was inviting the police into that prayer.

“Both Shawn and I recognized the same thing: In that posture in that protest we were creating margins and binaries. We were separating people. So, on our own we decided to move out to the margins and talk to the police about their role and their thoughts. We engaged them in a positive way, something that I don’t think would have happened if we had not been there in the protest. In that moment, Shawn and I first saw this like mindedness in each other.”

Then, they began to travel on prayerful pilgrimages to sites across the U.S. and around the world where milestones in the quest for peace and justice took place. Now, many nonprofits and universities now organize such Civil Rights Pilgrimages to sensitize young men and women. Shawn and Reesheda wound up traveling to South Africa together. They open their new book by describing their visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years from 1964 to 1982.

As has happened in the lives of countless other pilgrims to Robben Island, Reesheda and Shawn were deeply inspired by Mandela’s story. They began asking a host of questions, which they list in their new book. Here are just a few of the initial questions they raise:

  • Where does courage come from?
  • What caused a little girl to write in a diary in the middle of the Holocaust?
  • Or an unassuming Indian religious teacher to challenge the British Empire through nonviolent resistance?
  • Or a Black Baptist preacher from the Deep South to show love in the face of racial hatred and bigotry?

They rejected the pat answer given by most religious leaders: Oh, it’s inspiration God.

Yes, faith was always a powerful part of their lives. But there were deeper principles and values at work here, they both agreed. They began looking deeper at the questions they had raised. That’s how they settled upon the power of “soul force” as a crucial, transformative principles to revive for their readers.

Then, to help readers to understand the practical meaning of such a mysterious spiritual concept—they broke the concept down into specific kinds of changes we all could make in our lives. They call them seven pivots.

A COMMUNITY LEADER’S TOOLBOX

First and foremost, Reesheda said in our interview, “We wanted the book to be actionable.”

As is fitting for a book by two community developers, this book neatly unfolds chapter by chapter like opening a master mechanic’s toolbox. Each tier of their toolbox is a chapter packed with practical principles, calls to action, questions, tips and other useful information readers can use immediately to spark discussions—and action.

For the many preachers, teachers, social workers and writers in our ReadTheSpirit audience, this is a must-have book for jump-starting your own relationships in your community.

“We did not want this book to wind up as just another one of those books you put on your shelf and forget about,” Reesheda said. “In these chapters, we give readers actionable pieces. We know these ideas work! We’ve used them. We’re practical about this. We’re focused on action. You can open this book and develop a workshop around it—or a whole series around it.”

THE SEVEN PIVOTS

Reesheda Graham-Washington.

What is most disarming and welcoming about this new book is that Reesheda and Shawn present themselves as veterans, but they never boast that they are perfect models.

“That’s one of the most important things about soul force that makes it so useful and nimble,” Reesheda said. “We’re not claiming to be accomplished experts at all seven of these challenges. We describe ‘pivots’ in the book that we are always striving to make. And anyone can try that. We’re not experts. We’re trying like everyone else.

“For example, the first one is a pivot from fear to freedom. Well, I can tell you, I am black woman in America so I live every day of my life in fear in this country. I have not conquered fear. Nor am I waiting for my fears to go away. I’d be waiting forever! What soul force invites us to do is to move forward even in the midst of our difficult situations.”

That’s why the book’s first chapter, From Fear to Freedom, begins with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

That is also why confronting our fears is the first of the seven pivots Reesheda and Shawn invite readers to explore. “Soul force requires courage in the face of fear. If we want to experience movement in our lives, we have to learn to pivot from fear to freedom,” they write.

They don’t leave readers hanging with that seemingly impossible challenge. The first chapter is 19 pages and is packed with: first, a look at the most common kinds of personal fear, followed by a closer look at specific fears that may plague leaders, then an overview of societal fears we may encounter as we try to work in our communities, next an inspiring personal story that serves as a brief case study, a list of four steps readers can take while attempting this pivot—and finally a closing “mantra,” prayerful words of affirmation readers can use each day.

The other six chapter-length pivots are:

  • From Barriers to Bridge Building
  • From Self-Centeredness to Solidary
  • From Hurt to Hope
  • From Consuming to Creating
  • From Charity to Change
  • From Maintenance to Movement

‘WHERE DO YOU SHOW UP?’

Yes, both authors come from an evangelical Christian background, but the main message of “soul force” is that no single religious tradition can take credit for this universal principle.

“If we were able to talk about soul force with Dr. King today, the first thing he would tell us is that he learned a lot about this idea from Gandhi,” Reesheda said. “Jews and Christians and Muslims and people of all religious traditions can work together. That’s what Gandhi and King taught.

“When I’m talking to people, I say all the time: ‘We share a common faith!’ We may not share a common religion but we actually can mark out a long list of common values of faith—principles we share across our different religions,” Reesheda said.

This is an essential theme in their work. Religion summons great spiritual power, but religious boundaries could also divide people. “So we have to get right down to the most important questions,” Reesheda said, “like: What propels me to get out of bed in the morning? Soul force can become part of new language that unites us as we see how much we share.

“Where do you want to show up in the world? What makes your heart come alive? What’s your posture as you greet the world? These are questions at the core of soul force,” she said. “These are questions that can unite us.”

Or, as the authors put it in the final lines of their book: “Soul force is our courageous and creative self. It is who we were meant to be. It is who we have dreamed of being. And now is the time to live. To choose truth, community, and justice each day. To move toward the dream and actualize our purpose.”

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Solus Jesus: Emily Swan and Ken Wilson are following Jesus into a world where everyone feels safe

Emily Swan and Ken Wilson talking to a crowd at the Wild Goose Festival 2018 about their vision of the world into which Jesus is leading them.

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By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

Click the cover to visit the book’s page on Amazon.

Just imagine: A world where everyone feels safe. Everyone is loved. That alone is an astonishing vision in this era when each morning’s front-page headlines chronicle yet another crushing confrontation between our nation’s leaders.

And then imagine: In this world shaped by Jesus’s vision of compassion and justice, everyone is invited to explore God’s goodness—because everyone recognizes that a loving God continues to remains active in our world.

That’s the inspiring message of the new Solus Jesus: A Theology of Resistance, by Emily Swan and Ken Wilson. (The book is available through online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and our own Front Edge bookstore.)

What are they resisting? Five hundred years after the Reformation cry of independence for Christians to directly follow Jesus, Emily and Ken are calling for a new reforming movement. They are  pushing back against the rigid Evangelical-with-a-capital-E boundaries that they believe are actually preventing Christians from following Jesus in new ways. Wherever they go, these days, Emily and Ken are preaching that Jesus is alive and is inviting people into a world of inclusion and acceptance of diversity.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF QUEST

Ken and Emily.

Does this story of a vision, a quest and a brave new world sound a bit like a fairytale? Perhaps, to some readers. But, the fact is: This new world they envision actually exists right now—especially in communities that form around banners like the annual Wild Goose Festival. That’s where they officially launched their new book with help from Brian McLaren, who put it this way: “Solus Jesus: A Theology of Resistance challenges us to see the authoritative Jesus in a fresh light—so that his life, message, death and rising summon us to live in a new way as individuals and congregations.”

How did this summons to a new world unfold? Well, once upon a time, Ken was nationally known as an evangelical leader on the forefront of dialogue with other scholars both inside and outside of Christianity. He was among the evangelical pioneers opening up constructive conversations between evolutionary biologists and traditionalist Christians who reject that science. Ken pushed the boundaries of his religious realm—until he finally called for full inclusion of LGBTQ Christians in his popular and provocative book, A Letter to My CongregationFinally, Evangelical forces rose up and kicked him out of the kingdom.

Now, he and Emily are pioneers in a land they sometimes call post-evangelical—and sometimes simply describe as “a new way of more honestly following Jesus.”

“We feel very conflicted about that word, Evangelical, because it describes a world from which we now have been expelled,” Ken said in an interview. “For most people, that word, Evangelical, describes a thing—a powerful world with boundaries—and we’re now outside that world because of where Jesus has led us. We are exiles from that old world, so you could call us post-evangelical I suppose.”

He continued, “But then, what does that term post-evangelical even mean? What are we now? One way to look at it is: We’re still following Jesus like always. That part hasn’t changed. And, we haven’t joined mainline Protestants. Our whole experience over many years involves such a personal connection with Jesus that we would feel like strangers in a strange land among mainline Protestants.”

Like Moses searching for a new land, Emily and Ken are pastors serving the Blue Ocean congregation in Ann Arbor, but they also devote time to making new connections—continuing to preach both inside and outside of the formal church. That’s why they went to the campgrounds and tents of Wild Goose to launch their new book.

Ken is straight and married. Emily is gay and married. The steel curtain of exclusion that evangelical leaders have tried to drop around inclusive pastors has proven to be a painful barrier for both of them. But they are shouldering that hostility, because they now are united with so many other Christians who also have been marginalized and abused by traditionalist church leaders. Whatever has befallen them along the way, Emily and Ken know that such religious condemnation is far more damaging to the millions of vulnerable men and women who Emily describe collectively as “queer.” That’s the term she uses to embrace all the various LGBTQ letters associated with gender today.

‘THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!’

Emily (right) and Rachel.

“We need to find ways to start living now in the world we hope is coming,” Emily said in an interview after their pilgrimage to Wild Goose. “I think that’s a good way to describe the experience of this festival of thousands and thousands of progressive Christians who camp together in the hills of North Carolina. When we arrived, I was so pleased just to see this whole community of tents and RVs and cabins—along with tents and stages for the programs and then booths for different groups—and lots of other places where people could visit and talk. It’s really a celebratory community with lots of flags and banners and fabrics and lanterns and lights.

“In short, it’s beautiful. Walking along and seeing all the people, stopping to talk to new people along the way, I had this odd feeling come over me. I thought: These are my people!

“I felt a real welling up of gratitude. And that’s really remarkable, because coming from our background in a more spirited kind of Charismatic worship, the worship at Wild Goose actually was somewhat flatter than we normally experience at Blue Ocean.

“So, why was I responding in this way? I think it’s because I have been living in an evangelical world where being female and queer is not the norm. There’s very little space in which I can breathe and be myself. So, coming into a community like this—there’s this enormous sense of relief. The people we met didn’t expect me to justify myself. I didn’t have to defend my very existence. I felt this growing gratitude for all the people who have been working for years to create welcoming spaces like this.

“I don’t have these opportunities on a regular basis. So, my wife Rachel and I walked around Wild Goose. We wanted to meet the neighbors. As people cooked, they often would share with each other. We didn’t have a campfire, but we did set out a candle where we could gather around and talk. I came across a woman who turned out to be the pastor of a Cooperative Baptist church in Missouri. I gave her a copy of Solus Jesus, we talked, she said some good things about our new book—and we’ve kept in touch since Wild Goose. And that was just one of the many people I encountered.

“When you walk into a world like this where everyone truly is accepting—where people simply smile at you as you walk past—there’s this joyous feeling that wells up inside of you.”

Coming home and mulling over that experience, Emily said, “Of course, I know there have been other Christians there before us knocking down some of the walls that separate us. Thank God for those people who have been working on this for a long time. Now, I realize more than ever that we need to join together and start from scratch in reimagining church. We need to reimagine a more inclusive theology. Of course, that’s what Solus Jesus is all about. I hope our readers decide to join us in knocking down walls and building something new that’s a better world for all of us.”

CARE TO SUPPORT THIS WORK?

Are you drawn toward the work Emily and Ken are doing these days? First, get a copy of their new book. The book is available through online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and our own Front Edge bookstore.

Read their columns! You’ll find lots of creative ideas and ministry resources in this series of columns, which they share.

Visit: If you’re passing through Michigan, visit them at Blue Ocean Ann Arbor.

 

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At Lightning Source conference, independent publishers chart a flexible future for the global growth of books

John Ingram talks to one session during the Indie Days publishers’ conference in Nashville.

“I think we’re still at the beginning of what’s possible.”
John Ingram, Chairman of Ingram Content Group

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By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

Books are alive and well—and readership is growing—560 years after Johannes Gutenberg’s moveable type produced a Bible and transformed the world. That alone should be good news to regular readers of our online magazine. Since our founding in 2007, we have published weekly stories about new books and films that help to inspire and connect our world. Last week, our team attended a national publishers’ conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

“In just over half a millennium, printing, publishing and technology driving the industry has changed quite a bit. Innovation is ceaseless and so is the public’s desire for content,” the representatives of 57 publishing houses were told as the 2018 Lightning Source Indie Days conference began this past week.

Background: Lightning Source is the publishing-services division of the giant book wholesaler Ingram. Lightning Source uses cutting-edge equipment to produce millions of just-in-time books each year for all publishers, both large and small. The term “Indie” refers to independent publishers, like our own Front Edge Publishing, as distinct from the Big Five (Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan).

Here are three highlights of this year’s conference that are likely to interest our Front Edge readers:

PUBLISHING NEWS 1:
ENGLISH IS A GLOBAL PASSPORT

We’ve always known that English circles the world. Each week, we can see that readers from regions including Asia, Europe and Africa are visiting our online magazine. We get a report that shows little flags from all the nations where Internet connections have been made with columns in ReadTheSpirit.

Speakers at this conference stressed that the reach of English continues to grow, comprising about 1.5 billion English speakers around the world today. One expert laid out demographic projections that show, within a couple of decades, India will be the home of more English speakers than the U.S.

A report encouraging publishers to think globally in their marketing of English-language books said: “English is either the official language, or a recognized official language in almost 60 sovereign states. It is the third most common native language in the world, after Mandarin and Spanish. It is the most widely learned second language, an official language of the UN, EU and of many other world and regional international organizations.”

What’s the take-away for our ReadTheSpirit readers? You can travel far with English. Are you hoping to speak to the world through your writing—perhaps through your online columns or emails or newsletters? Yes, as American writers, we should consider adding Spanish options, in particular, but English still circles planet Earth very effectively.

We already are acknowledging these trends in our own publishing house. Want to see an example of a book designed to be helpful to the millions of people around the world who are learning English today? Check out Kathleen Gripman’s American History Made Easy, which is especially popular in regions of Asia where men and women are learning English as a Second Language.

Ingram’s Phil Ollila talks about the future of audio books, among other cutting-edge topics, at the Indie Days publishers’ conference.

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PUBLISHING NEWS 2: 
AUDIO DREAMS

Every publisher and media expert we met at the conference talked about the steep challenges of creating audio books. Sales of audio books continue to grow each year (we have more information on that in a Front Edge Publishing column this week)—to the point that another media “disruption” is predicted, similar to the introduction of the Kindle in 2007.

So, what are the big dreams for the future of audio books?

One dream is that audio books eventually will come with a standard set of helpful new tools. For example, in the future, audio books will be as searchable as digital texts. Want to zip right to the section of a book about your favorite character or topic? You’ll be able to do that through an easy audio interface.

One speaker predicted that, within a few years, we will all be able to call out to our Alexa or Google or Siri virtual assistant: “Play me an audio excerpt about the Civil War Battle of Shiloh.” Or: “… about Judy Garland when she appeared in Wizard of Oz.” Or: “… about how to make a German Chocolate Cake.” The speaker went on to predict that, when vast numbers of books are produced in audio and search options are fine tuned, we will be able to ask virtual assistants to play very specific excerpts: “… play the third paragraph of Moby Dick …” or “… play any book that mentions my grandfather Col. George C. Cook in the Korean War …”

“This is going to get so sophisticated that readers will be able to search all the millions of books stored in the cloud for things as specific as: ‘Tell me what happened on Omaha Beach on D-Day at 4 p.m.’,” said Phil Ollila, Chief Content Officer for Ingram. “And you will be able to hear sections of books read to you. Then, it’s going to get even more adaptive. You’ll be able to add, ‘And read that to me with an English accent—or read me that in the voice of a cocktail lounge singer.’ ”

Just envision that world, when an idea might pop up during your morning walk and a quick holler at Siri on your iPhone will suddenly start reading a very specific passage from a book—just the section you want to hear.

For example, imagine the possibilities when you pass a particular monument, or river, or distinctive building. “… play any book about the history of shipping on the Ohio River.”

Does it sound like science fiction? Well, so was the smart phone, or Siri, just a few years ago.

PUBLISHING NEWS 3: 
CAN I PERSONALIZE THAT?

Customer Experience Manager Taylor Hale encouraged publishers to fine tune their messages to customers.

Since our founding in 2007, our publishing house has always offered a flexible option to customize a “short run” of books. That’s a popular option with customers ordering a quantity of books for a conference, special event or a community-wide read. For a long time, that was a fairly exclusive option, based on the special in-house software we use to produce books. That lets us modify books more easily than most publishers.

Now, however, publishers nationwide are clamoring for customization. Several new programs were demonstrated at the conference, two of which are likely to interest general readers.

First, publishers now have new options to personalize individual books by inserting a single, unique page in the front of each book. While placing the order, the publisher can add text and photos to that page. So, for an additional cost, a group ordering books for a class or special event can have each book shipped with a different participant’s name on the first page—or other customized messages. Imagine ordering a copy of our children’s book Sadie Sees Trouble and having it arrive with the first page saying: “This book is a gift from Grandma Cooper to Marcie on her third birthday.” That message might also be accompanied by a photo of Grandma holding Marcie in her lap. Imagine the value of that keepsake!

This kind of customization can be done on all books through publishers who use the Lightning Source system—as we do at our Front Edge Publishing house. Take a look at our catalog and imagine the kinds of personalized gifts and group-reads you could plan.

Second, publishers will be doing more with book-wide customization, mainly starting with children’s books. An entire book—from its cover through its interior pages—can be digitally “mapped” to insert a particular child’s name (or other information) in a whole array of precise locations.

If you love books now—especially children’s books—just imagine how much children will enjoy personalized books in the years ahead.

Care to Read More?

Want to learn more about the latest trends in the publishing industry? Over at our Front Edge Publishing website, we have a column this week with 6 news items from the publishers’ conference of particular interest to writers and media professionals.

Part of the Ingram facility where Indie Days conference sessions were held for representatives from 57 publishing houses. A half dozen large spaces were open to participants throughout the conference—to encourage publishers to form small groups for conversations. Our team from Michigan enjoyed the spontaneous interaction with other publishers as much as the formal presentations.

 

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Marilyn McEntyre on why ‘Make a List’ is really a spiritual practice

List-making almost always leads to surprises.
Marilyn McEntyre, author of Make a List

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Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

We love lists!

Since this online magazine was founded in 2007, we have published more than 10,000 columns—and hundreds of those columns sprinkled through this vast magazine are lists. Any savvy journalist knows that presenting a story as a list is guaranteed to heighten reader interest. What’s “in” the list? What’s “out”?

Some Baby Boomers like to think they invented the idea of lists with best-selling milestones such as The Whole Earth Catalog and The Book of Lists—but they were simply building upon timeless wisdom! Lists form the foundations of world culture. The only reason anyone remembers the ancient Babylonian King Hammurabi after nearly 7,000 years is that he codified and quite literally posted a giant list of laws. Simply mention the name Moses among friends—and what do we recall first and foremost? That Top 10 List he carried down a mountain. And, this idea was not limited to the Middle East. Study the Analects of Confucius or the I Ching and you’ll quickly recognize—lists.

We are an online magazine that specializes in covering religious and cultural diversity, especially in the forms of new books and films. So, we can’t help but love lists.

The moment Marilyn McEntyre’s guide to list-making appeared in our home office, we knew that we wanted to recommend it to readers.

A DO IT YOURSELF GUIDE TO LIST MAKING

Make a List is a Do-It-Yourself guide to list making. But that description might make the text sound rather dry. In fact, this is an inspiring workbook that offers fresh invitations to readers with every turn of Marilyn’s pages. This is a book from which you can spin off countless ideas of your own for lists, prayers, columns, sermons, lesson plans, discussion starters.

Warning to readers: Have paper and pen ready when you open this book, because you will immediately want to start making lists of the lists you’ll want to make!

LISTS AS MINDFULNESS

Marilyn McEntyre

There also is an Eastern approach to mindfulness that animates Marilyn’s approach to lists. That’s true of her earlier books, as well, such as her 2016 book, Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice. In that book, Marilyn listed some common and yet powerfully evocative words and Richard Rohr described the overall effect as bringing “lively attention to the way single words can open multiple doors of memory, imagination and reflection.”

In our interview about her new book, Marilyn said, “I think one of my favorite words these days is ‘noticing.’ List making is a way to teach ourselves to take note of what’s around us and what’s in us.”

Marilyn took issue with my description of this as an Eastern practice. “You could call it a spiritual discipline,” she acknowledged, but said, “I like to think of it as a discipline of stopping—like Basil Rathbone used to do in those classic Sherlock Holmes movies—and saying, ‘Hmm, look! What’s this?’ ”

If you read any of Marilyn’s books—or visit her personal website—you will learn that she is Christian and has a loyal base of readers like Rohr who might be described as progressive Christians with a special interest in renewing spiritual disciplines.

“I describe myself as a follower of Christ,” she said in our interviw. “I am the daughter of missionary parents. I was born in India. I had very faithful parents. My mother really walked with Jesus in a way that was luminous but I also had my struggles with their particular generation of evangelicalism. These days I worship in a wonderful Episcopal church. I spent some time with the Quakers. So, I have had chapters of my life in different denominational settings and that’s been really rich.”

LISTS AS AN ANTIDOTE FOR ANXIETY

In addition to her writing and public speaking, Marilyn teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, in Medical Humanities. “For most of my career, I have tried to wander across disciplinary boundaries, so I’ve taught courses in literature and theology at a couple of seminaries,” she said in our interview. “At Berkeley, it’s Medical Humanities, where we explore connections between literature and medicine.”

Anyone who has been involved in therapy knows about the potential of lists. “What are you afraid of? Take 5 minutes and list everything that pops into your mind,” might be a request. Or, we might be urged to make a list of things we hope to do—or dread doing—and prioritize the items. We might be asked to list our fears, then deliberately set some of them aside to ponder another day. It’s no accident that the world’s most popular self-help programs are—12 Steps.

“I really am interested in that relationship between list making and anxiety,” Marilyn said in our interview. “There is so much floating around us all the time, these days. We are surrounded by the Internet, which is such a concentric and complex web of relationships that it’s very difficult to put your finger down on something and say: I’m going to start here.

“A list is a way of making sense of things. But there also is such freedom in list making. A list doesn’t demand that you organize something clearly before you put it down. A list is just a beginning, a opportunity to respond to what’s happening around us in a new way. I might encounter something in the front-page news that troubles me and I might respond by starting a list of ‘Things I’d like to understand about Islam.’ That’s a much more positive response than a lot of other reactions we might have.

“I hope people find in this book a lot of new possibilities to explore.”

Here at ReadTheSpirit, we do, too!

10 GREAT LISTS TO EXPLORE

A column on the power and potential of lists wouldn’t be complete without—a list. Since we love lists—and have published 100s over the past 11 years—here are some lists we recommend from our online magazine, our columnists and our authors.

1.) OUR NEWEST LIST—Over at our Front Edge Publishing website, we have just published our newest list: 10 Reasons We Like Epigraphs. At that Front Edge website, several of us on the publishing-house staff take turns writing weekly columns packed with tips and professional news for writers. This week’s column explains why many new books are sprinkled with short quotations in the form of “precedes.”

2.) OUR OLDEST LIST—Way back in 2007, we published one of our all-time most-popular columns. It was a quiz—in other words, a list of questions—asking readers to identify Is It the Bible or the Bard?

3.) PRAYING FOR OUR WORLD—As Marilyn explains in one section of her new book, prayers usually are lists, whether we prefer to call them litanies or liturgies or even free-form conversations with God. In prayer, we tend to move from one item to another and that’s quite simply a list. Our ReadTheSpirit friends have been involved in cooperatively writing prayers—as a group experience—for many years. Care to learn more? Here is a 2013 column called, Praying for Our World: The WISDOM of Women.

4.) MOVIE LISTS—We’ve published so many movie lists over the past 11 years that we can’t count them all. But we do know that the most popular movie list we ever published is Top 10 Jesus MoviesAll of our writers get involved in highlighting new books and films we love. Each year, author Rodney Curtis publishes his own Favorite Movies of the Year. Our readers love movie lists!

5.) FEED THE SPIRIT—We write a lot about the infinite spiritual connections with the food we eat. We even connected that theme with movies in A Baker’s Dozen: 13 Best Films on Food and Faith.

6.) HOLIDAYS—One of the most popular ongoing columns in our magazine involves global Holidays & Festivals. We love dreaming up connections that knit all of our themes together, so in keeping with our focus on holidays, we published Top 10 ‘Other’ Christmas Movies, After It’s a Wonderful Life.

7.) INTERFAITH PEACEMAKERSThis section of our online magazine, created by author and international peacemaker Daniel Buttry, is packed with lists of stories about heroic men and women.

8.) OUR BIG BOOKSTOREOn this website, our Front Edge Publishing bookstore lists most of the books we have published over the past decade.

9.) A BIG LIST OF COMICS—In our efforts to combat bigotry and bullying, we created another special section highlighting all the cartoonists who have contributed to Bullying Is No Laughing Matter.

10.) 100 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS—We even publish books that are cover-to-cover lists. The Michigan State University School of Journalism’s Bias Buster team has created a whole series of these books.

Care to explore further?

Beyond these Top 10 gateways to our most memorable lists, feel free to play around with the search box on our website. You may stumble across other gems you will enjoy. There are lots of hidden corners of this website. Here’s a hint: A few years ago, we shone a spotlight on one of the world’s masters of the literary list, Charles Dickens. Check out this introduction to Bleak House, which includes the text of Dickens’ famous list describing London’s infamous fog that opens this grand novel. Or, you might stumble across a column in which a few friends of our magazine began posting a list of curious words they wanted to investigate.

Enjoy! And please share your enjoyment of these columns with friends!

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