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Common Good’s 10 Most-Read Articles of 2022

This is a roundup.

What did you read the most this year? We can tell you, well, we can tell you what you read at commongoodmag.com. Here’s what you loved.

10. How to Be Calm in a Reactive World

By Ryan Diaz

In his new book, Good and Beautiful and Kind, Rich Villodas explores the fractures that divide our world, drawing out their origins and implications while also identifying solutions. For him, interior wholeness is a precursor to exterior healing. He writes: “Christianity is about the love of God being expressed through followers of Jesus.” The love he advocates for isn’t trite or saccharine, but rooted in justice, taking seriously the systemic divisions that fracture our world. His writing is pastorally relevant and provides an insightful look at the polarization that dominates our age. Villodas’ new book isn’t just a collection of good ideas about wholeness but is the byproduct of lived experience and pastoral care, providing a necessary framework for those looking for shalom within themselves and the world around them.

09. What the Great Resignation Says About the Way We (Can) Work

By Lara Renee

It’s no great secret that our generation of workers has a tendency to seek a full identity and purpose in work. Case in point: Back in 2019, The Atlantic published an article titled “Workism is Making Americans Miserable.” The writer, Derek Thompson, employs various religious metaphors throughout the article to expose this tendency. He uses words like “worship” and “calling” and writes about what he names “the Gospel of Work.” In doing so, he mirrors the religion-like fervor with which many of us approach our daily work, pointing out that “our desks were never meant to be our altars.”

08. The Pastor and the Tree of Life

By Tom Nelson

The quality and depth of our relationship with God and others lived in spiritual community is a reliable assessment barometer of our growing integral life. Regardless of personality and cultural differences, integral pastoral leaders live relationally and nourish communities where relational depth is highly prized and continually pursued. Jesus reminded his disciples that an authenticating mark of their loving relationship with him was their loving relationship with others: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It is all too easy for pastoral leaders to lose sight of the primacy of close relationships in their own lives.

07. The Long, Bright History of Prayer Candles

By Alyson Rockhold 

At CORDA Candles, Anna Camacho, its founder and owner, makes candles with the intent to bridge the sacred and the secular, to bring faith into everyday moments. I talked with Camacho about how fire is used to represent God and how candles can draw people into God’s presence.

Camacho’s craft is inspired by her faith, and it’s clear why: You can tell that she is passionate about how people experience the presence of God. Her work seeks to encourage that. She explained that there is a deep, powerful tradition of praying with fire. 

06. Why Your ‘Grit’ Won’t See You Through

By Peter Greer and Jill Heisey

We became hyper focused on the concept of “grit” with the stratospheric rise of Angela Duckworth’s eponymous book in 2018. As hardworking leaders struggling to make peace with our human limitations and the massive challenges in our world, we were beyond intrigued: We were sold. A formula and path where more effort equals more impact? Sign. Us. Up.

It was easy to embrace Duckworth’s ideas, which nestled comfortably between the Protestant work ethic and our nation’s “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” ethos. Like Duckworth, we see perseverance, passion, and effort as virtues that should be cultivated. But after years of trying to grit it out, our feelings of inadequacy only intensified.

05. What Speaking Truth to Power Requires

By Kaitlyn Schiess

We have rightly stressed the role of the prophet as someone who tells the truth about the world to those who do not want to hear it — those blinded by their privilege, comfort, and status. Yet in many Christian circles, we have responded to the overemphasis on prophecy as predictive, a forecast into the future, by highlighting another element of it: “speaking truth to power.” 

Might we be so quick to rush to this exhilarating task that we forget to ask the perennial question: What is true?

04. Why You Won’t Return Unchanged

By Lara D’Entremont

The secret to a journey well done is unhurried trekking — that is where we will find “some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure.” As Tolkien is able to illustrate so well with the character of Bilbo — to the children he wrote the story for and to the adults who may read it to them — the growth we experience comes from the life we endure. As much as we would like to, we cannot begin with perfection; to begin any journey, we must begin humbly, willing to be imperfect, to be changed, to grow “fiercer and bolder.”

03. The Good Life is Yours

By Ashley Hales

This “good life” we’re fed as part of the American Dream is one of upward mobility; it tells us that the way to preserve our freedom is to remain unattached and unconstrained. It has for its hero the myth of the American intrepid explorer, the one pulling up his bootstraps, plucking opportunity like heavy fruit from the vine. Today, that might look like finding security through bank accounts or social media followers, by staying “true to yourself,” where “you do you” works as long as the “you” in question agrees with the me in question. But the pursuit of this has left our social fabric frayed, our civility weak, our muscles of sympathy atrophied, and our Christian witness tarnished.

02. The Future Belongs to the Barren

By Eric Schumacher

“The future does not belong to the fecund,” I spoke aloud to myself, emotionally exhausted only two days into the week. Early that afternoon, a friend and I were guests on a podcast to share our experiences with miscarriage. The host and his wife had never been able to have children. We relived the often-silent and lonely pain of losing an unseen life. Thoughtless comments. Unspoken fears. Empty arms. I remarked that the unfathomable number of miscarried children throughout history reminds us of how broken this world is.

01. The Story Behind the Viral ‘Jose y Maria’

By Alyson Rockhold

Comics are best known as a medium for superhero stories or the Sunday funnies. But Everett Patterson has turned them into a ministry. 

Patterson started his career as an organic vegetable farmer. And after a long day in the fields, he couldn’t wait to get back to his artwork. When he heard about an unpaid internship at a comics studio, Patterson leaped into the world of comics and never looked back. 

Now he works as an artist for BibleProject. Or, as a recent byline explained: “Once a mild-mannered assistant editor at Dark Horse Comics, Everett Patterson was bitten by a radioactive Bible and became a junior art director for BibleProject.” We chatted about his experience as an artist, the evolution of his practice, and the heart behind his creativity.

One more for the road (You loved this one too):

Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your ‘Secular’ Job

By Loy Warren

A wise pastor once told me that, “Everyone is in full time ministry.” He was right. If enough of us internalize that concept and take it to the office with us, the gospel will reach the people there. Skeptics and agnostics may see Christ in his followers and want to know more. We can show that faith in Jesus is real and is consistent with who we are at work. The next time you get a memo announcing an inscrutable management change, reorganization, or outrageous financial goal, take a deep breath. Pray to God like Nehemiah did, standing before the Persian king (Neh 2:4). Resist the urge to explode or eject. You are there for a reason.You have a cubicle in Babylon. It is not a jail cell.

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