Food for the Soul

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Posted 12/6/18 at 1:35 PM |

Telly Award-winning artist and speaker joins national women's conference

Telly Award-winning artist and five-time top 10 Billboard singer Jennifer Shaw will join the Aspire women’s conference in 2019. Begun in 2014, Aspire events are one-night events that have featured numerous speakers, comedians and singers including Karen Kingsbury, Lisa Whelchel, and Anita Renfroe, among many others. Shaw will sing as well as share her story with conference attendees in select markets.

After a four-year absence from the radio charts, Shaw recently released a new full-length recording project entitled “Nothing to Fear”, produced by Lifeway’s Songwriter of the Year, Paul Marino. Though Shaw’s last album spawned a Telly Award-winning music video and songs used by organizations such as disability ministry Joni and Friends, as well as Remember Nhu, a worldwide organization that fights child sex slavery, Shaw waited for the right time to record songs that reflect the multiple changes in her life and family.

Shaw’s parenting skills were put to the test early on when her youngest child, son Toby, was diagnosed with a severe case of Sensory Processing Disorder. Shaw chronicled her family’s journey in the critically-acclaimed book “Life Not Typical: How Special Needs Parenting Changed my Faith and my Song”, which is now used in the Resource Library of Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. Shaw’s involvement with children’s organizations and her multi-year partnership with Compassion International took her to orphanages around the world where she learned that children over the age of three are rarely adopted, and their chances were even lower if they had medical issues. Armed with that knowledge, the Shaws realized they couldn’t help every child, but they could help somebody. So in the past two years, Shaw along with her husband and their three biological children, have adopted three Chinese children with medical issues, ages 7 to 11. FULL POST

Posted 11/28/18 at 11:10 AM |

New documentary about a tailoring school for women in Malawi Africa to premiere worldwide

A documentary film entitled “Reap What You Sew” about a tailoring school established in Malawi, Africa will premiere on the NRB TV network on December 27, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. Central time. Founded by Dr. Deb Waterbury, President of Love Everlasting Ministries, the Reap What You Sew school held their second graduation this past summer. In the two years since the school began, 17 out of 19 graduates have started their own businesses and been able to lift their families out of poverty.

The documentary, filmed exclusively on location in Malawi and Mozambique this past summer, follows the lives of several former graduates of the school as well as highlights the newest graduating class. Dr. Waterbury says the documentary is an accurate portrayal of the impoverishment in these countries.

“Malawi is one of the poorest nations in the world, and the women there are often destitute,” says Waterbury. “These women receive no education and are often widowed due to AIDS. There are no department stores in the country so you have to buy clothes from tailors, making this the perfect skill for women to learn and pass on to their children. One of our students from last semester opened up her own storefront in her village and called it ‘Thank You Jesus Tailoring Shop’. The transformation in her life has been remarkable.” FULL POST

Posted 10/11/18 at 2:35 PM |

Author challenges parents to raise children who resist the current cultural trends

In a recent Barna Research study, half of all parents say they talk to their children daily about self-control, happiness, and patience. But less than 40% talk to their kids about serving others, conflict resolution, or being reliable. In her new book, “How to Build Children with Integrity”, author and bible study teacher Karen Budzinski offers parents strategies to tackle the subjects that shape the core of their children’s character. Budzinski says that on average, if a person interacts with only three people per day, they will impact over 80,000 people during their lifetime, and that, she says, is why integrity is so imperative.

“As the mother of five, I have learned that raising children to adulthood requires integrity: the wholeness that comes from knowing who you are, what you stand for and what you live for,” says Budzinski. “Integrity is consistent; it can be counted on. Building children requires that you build them with ethics and character that will stand against the flood of social opposition to strong values. ‘How to Build Children with Integrity’ is a toolbox of resources and ideas for parents and those who are involved with children. This book is meant to be used as a springboard to get people to think of how they can take normal everyday life and build something lasting in children along the way. I include many ideas on how to train character, starting with ages where parents are not even accustomed to thinking ahead to outcomes yet.” FULL POST

Posted 5/31/18 at 4:38 PM |

Sales of a new book about father/daughter relationships will aid children around the world

In just five years since it began, the Novitas Foundation and its team have provided aid and humanitarian relief in a number of third-world countries, most recently providing over 500,000 meals to children’s hospitals in three northern provinces of North Korea following a devastating typhoon. And while some charities spend a significant amount of money on overhead, Novitas’ financials are easier to reconcile since 100% of the public donations it receives goes directly to project expenses to serve people in need. So as its founder and International Executive Director, Shad Arnold releases his first book entitled “Claire’s Dad: How I Earned the Title”, it was a natural choice for him to commit a portion of the book sales as well as his speaking engagements towards on-going projects for Novitas. But the book itself was never really planned in the first place. It was just the musings of a dad reminiscing 20 years of life with his only daughter.

“After moving Claire into the dorm at college and attending orientation, all of the emotions, thoughts, dreams and more of our life together just landed on my heart,” says Arnold, “so I decided to record them by writing a few things down. One thought became a chapter, then another, and another. A few days later, my wife Janelle said ‘Maybe this is a book.’” FULL POST

Posted 5/14/18 at 11:55 AM |

Why 3-time Emmy winning sportscaster didn't want to be another statistic

James (J.B.) Brown hopes his story inspires others to change their lives for the better



Q: You have recently lost a lot of weight. What was the motivation behind that?
A: Solomon was the wisest and richest man in the world, but when he got off track from God, he realized everything apart from God was meaningless. I want my life to be one of significance. That was my main motivating factor behind losing 84 pounds over the past year or so. 3 John 1:2 says “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” Before I took the first supplement or went to my first nutritional counseling, I was inspired that Dr. Ray, who founded Nutrimost, was basing his program on biblical principles. My aim was to be healthy in order to be a person of significance and to make a difference in people’s lives. I feel like the Energizer Bunny now after losing so much weight and I continue to do the right things to keep my body healthy. I wanted to get physically healthy, of course, but my overriding motivation was to be a vessel for the Lord’s use. FULL POST

Posted 3/14/18 at 11:02 PM |

New book offers interactive features to encourage community prayer

A recent Barna Research study showed that 94% of American adults who have prayed at least one time in the last three months most often pray by themselves. Only 4% say they pray collectively with a church or with other people. According to Jim Maxim, co-author of the new book “21 Days of Breakthrough Prayer: The Power of Agreement”, this statistic is why so many churches are failing.

“Church leaders are in a difficult position in today’s culture,” says Maxim. “Sometimes it can be challenging to listen to voices who tell them to try this latest tactic or implement this new method in order to reach more people. Marketing has its place, but sometimes we neglect the one thing that can truly change everything—corporate prayer. We want to help people see the value of that again, and offer them resources that can help move them in that direction.”

Co-written with Maxim’s wife, Cathy, and Pastor Daniel Henderson, “21 Days of Breakthrough Prayer” offers daily written devotionals each day after which readers are invited to go to www.Acts413.net/21days or www.Strategicrenewal.com/21days where they can pray along with the pre-recorded prayers that correspond with that day's devotion and author. Maxim and his wife began the Acts 413 ministry a few years ago to bring pastors and church leaders together for corporate prayer in various cities in the U.S. Their prayer gatherings have featured well-known pastors and speakers such as Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle, but the lasting effects of the gatherings have sparked many local pastors to begin praying for each other on a regular basis. FULL POST

Posted 3/12/18 at 11:33 AM |

Hard rock band takes on softer tone while getting real about recent violent acts on new EP

When husband and wife team Ammee Pearl and Jay Huzil formed the band SWEETEVERAFTER nine years ago, their sound was distinctively hard rock, earning them a nomination for Metal Song of the Year at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards. But in their third release, the new EP entitled “Adoration Project,” the music shifts to softer tones while their lyrics take recent tragic events head on.

“I wrote this song after the Boston bombing,” says Pearl. “Since that time so many other senseless acts of violence have happened — including the school shooting that just happened in Florida — that sometimes now I feel like we accept it. It has become our new normal. We have become numb to the horror and sadness of it all. So, I found myself sitting at my piano in the studio and I began to write, asking God why, and crying out to Him in deep sorrow and reflection. I believe that in the depth of our souls exists the capacity for great good and great evil. To see this choice played out on the world’s stage causes us to turn inward and examine ourselves. The song ‘Desperate for Love’ is the cry of my heart and a reflection on the brokenness of the world. It is a prayer that the God of the Universe would come and breathe new life into all these broken places.” FULL POST

Posted 2/20/18 at 9:25 AM |

Telly Award winner and top 40 Billboard artist releases new project from Lifeway’s Producer of the Year

After a six year absence on the national radio charts, top 40 Billboard singer and Telly Award winning artist, Jennifer Shaw, has released a new full-length recording project entitled “Nothing to Fear”, produced by Lifeway’s Producer of the Year, Paul Marino. Though Shaw’s last album spawned a Telly Award-winning music video and songs used by organizations such as disability ministry Joni and Friends, as well as Remember Nhu, a worldwide organization that fights child sex slavery, Shaw waited until now to record songs that reflect the multiple changes in her life and family.

Beyond her musical success, Shaw is a sought-after speaker and author, and a long-time advocate for children. Shaw’s parenting skills were put to the test early on when her youngest child, son Toby, was diagnosed with a severe case of Sensory Processing Disorder. Shaw chronicled her family’s journey in the critically-acclaimed book “Life Not Typical: How Special Needs Parenting Changed my Faith and my Song”, which is now used in the Resource Library of Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. Shaw’s involvement with children’s organizations and her multi-year partnership with Compassion International took her to orphanages around the world where she learned that children over the age of 3 are rarely adopted, and their chances were even lower if they had medical issues. Armed with that knowledge, the Shaws realized they couldn’t help every child, but they could help somebody. So in the past 18 months, Shaw along with her husband and their three biological children have adopted three Chinese children with medical issues, ages 7 to 11. FULL POST

Posted 11/20/17 at 12:28 PM | Audra Jennings

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of a classic American novel

Part 1 of an interview with Nancy LeSourd,
Publisher of Gilead Publishing’s Evergreen Farm imprint
about Catherine Marshall’s Christy

Watch the book trailer!

Gilead Publishing and Evergreen Farm
"Christy" by Catherine Marshall

Some stories are evergreen, their themes and lessons standing the test of time and connecting with readers generation after generation. One such book is Catherine Marshall’s Christy, originally released in 1967 and now celebrating its 50th anniversary with the release of a new hardcover edition and its first-ever release as an e-book from Evergreen Farm, an imprint of Gilead Publishing. Based on Marshall’s mother’s life, the story of Christy is one of determination, devotion and commitment to making a difference in the world.

Marshall’s best seller tells the story of nineteen-year-old teacher Christy Huddleston who moves from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1912 and finds herself in Cutter Gap, a Smoky Mountain community that feels suspended in time, trapped by poverty, superstitions and century-old traditions. Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home, and some of the Cutter Gap residents see her — and her one-room school — as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged by trial and tragedy, and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove.

Q: How many copies of Christy have been sold in the last 50 years since its original release?

Exact figures are hard to estimate as the way sales are tracked has changed throughout the years. The book has also been re-released in various formats from different publishers. However, with the information we do have, we believe more than 10 million copies have been sold.

Q: Readers throughout time have always had a strong emotional connection to Christy. What is it about Christy that resonates with young women especially?

The story of Christy has endured because of its timeless themes. A young person, barely 19, is inspired to contribute her time and talents to make a difference. Her idealistic ideas clash head-on with those who see her as an outsider, a do-gooder and a meddler. Christy has to learn how to come alongside people she wants to “help” and learn how to care — really care — for them, one person at a time.

Throughout the years, we have learned of many people inspired by the story of Christy who became a teacher or a doctor or who entered public service living among the poor in their communities in the United States or abroad.

Q: In what ways will millennials be able to relate to Christy, a character based on a woman who was born 120 years ago?

There is an entire generation who does not remember the CBS TV series. I gathered our children to watch it every week, but they were two and four when it aired. Today they are 25 and 27. The largest demographic by 2020 will be the millennials. Their choices, passions, investments of time, talent and treasure will impact America economically, politically and socially.

I am particularly excited to introduce this audience to the novel Christy. Christy is a timeless tale of courage, determination and passion — a story very much reflective of millennials today. With their desire to make a difference, ingenuity to create businesses or engage in work that has social impact and rejection of cash donations in favor of offering their time and talents or social enterprise, it is time to introduce them to this amazing young woman, Christy. Christy and other key characters in the novel, such as the doctor and a minister, have to learn how to take who they are and what they have to give and learn to serve a community that challenges them in ways they cannot anticipate.

How these key characters approach trying to make a difference — all very unique and different — are everyman and everywoman who desires to do the same in their own community today. The wonderful thing about millennials is that they are disrupters; they want to make a difference. The desire to be a change agent often starts in the heart, as did Christy’s desire to come to the mountains to teach children. That inspirational motivation can sometimes flag when met with obstacles, resistance or even hatred. The story of Christy takes on these challenges head-on and does not flinch with depicting the realities of pitting the enthusiastic change agent Christy against resistant, suspicious people in the community. How she navigates her life in the Cove and her passion to make a difference applies to anyone who wants to make a difference in his or her community, business, charity or social enterprise.

Q: What lessons can those who are about to make a life change and enter an unfamiliar world glean from the story of Christy?

In a word, courage. It took a lot of courage for Christy Huddleston to leave everything familiar and comfortable and enter a world different from anything she had experienced before. Her life in the Appalachian Tennessee mountains was a stark contrast to the life she had lived in the city of Asheville, North Carolina. It required courage for her to face opposition and evil. It required courage for her to face her own shortcomings and doubts without running away. She continued to try new methods and ideas.

Catherine Marshall, author of "Christy"

Perseverance is another lesson. Christy learned that change of social injustice and community values is slow and often painful. Changing a community and its way of doing things is usually the result of impacting one life at a time. Learning how to persevere in the midst of discouragement and setbacks is another life lesson demonstrated in Christy’s encounters with the fiercely determined Scottish highlanders in the mountains of Tennessee.

Unexpected joy — it is often when we risk the familiar, launch out into the uncertain future and leave behind what is comfortable and familiar that we encounter unexpected joy. Christy had no idea when she first arrived in the Cove that she would experience unfettered joy with these ragamuffin children, encounter the depths of shared friendship and insights with an unusual mentor or be taught about true beauty and joy in the simplest of things by a mountain woman. She came as the teacher. She came to serve. She came to make a difference. As so often happens when we take these kinds of risks, she found herself the recipient of so much more.

Learn more about the 50th anniversary of Christy plus download a free map of Cutter Gap by visiting www.christybook.com. Readers can also keep up with news on future Evergreen Farm releases via Facebook (@gileadpublishing) and Twitter (@GileadPub).

Posted 11/20/17 at 12:23 PM | Audra Jennings

Ritual, Relationships and Rest

Part 1 of an interview with Melissa Spoelstra,
Author of Total Christmas Makeover

Total Christmas Makeover by Melissa Spoelstra

As Melissa Spoelstra studied the Book of Numbers while writing her Bible study on the topic, she noticed three elements included in the festivities and began thinking about how she could apply them to her personal Christmas celebrations. She shares those revelations with readers in her latest book, Total Christmas Makeover (Abingdon Press). In fact, Spoelstra devotes a section of the book to each of the elements:

  • Ritual: Special activities out of the ordinary routine were planned to help remember what God has done.
  • Relationships: Time spent together preparing special foods, eating, gathering in holy assembly, and explaining traditions to children.
  • Rest: Regular work set aside for planned times of celebration and rest from activity to allow for reflection on God.

“A total Christmas makeover doesn’t mean scrapping all your holiday traditions or adding ten more to your list. Instead, it is a personal time of reflection to evaluate how your Christmas practices align with some biblical concepts of celebration,” explains Spoelstra. “Passover, festivals, and feasts were instituted by God to help His people remember who He is and what He has done. While we have no such specifics given for our celebration of Christ’s birth because it comes from church history rather than biblical mandate, we can glean some important principles about celebration from Scripture.”

Q: Since the Bible doesn’t expressly instruct us to celebrate Christ’s birth, is it OK to mix the more secular elements of Christmas in with the religious aspects of the holiday?

In light of the many holy days set aside in Scripture for the purpose of celebration, I have to believe God loves a good party. Jesus spent a significant time at parties during His ministry on earth. I don’t think every aspect of Christmas has to be hyper-spiritual. Of course, we want to focus on Christ’s humble birth, God’s extravagant love and the sacrifice He made to redeem us. That doesn’t mean we can’t have some rituals that are just for fun. My husband hides our children’s stockings every year since we never had a good place to hang them. They wake up before us on Christmas morning and find a handwritten poem with clues and parameters to start hunting. As they got older he went a little crazy, burying one in a bin underground and another year placing one of them on the roof (clearly without permission from me!). This has no spiritual significance, but it will be one of my children’s favorite memories. Later in the day we will read from Luke and share what Christ has done in our lives, but the morning stocking hunt is just for fun. I’m sure many of you have traditions that aren’t inherently spiritual, but if they aren’t contrary to God’s Word or offensive to Christ’s message, I believe we have a lot of freedom in Christ worth exercising!

Q: As long as you make sure everything you do is Christ-honoring in some way, is there anything wrong with going “all out” for Christmas? Looking at the opposite end of the spectrum, is it OK if you don’t do anything special to observe or celebrate Christmas?

Let’s remember that Christmas isn’t a commanded holy day in the Bible. God did issue consequences for those who refused to celebrate Passover without a good reason (Numbers 9:13), but Christmas is a tradition, not a commanded holiday. I have friends who really go all out. My friend Elizabeth loves Christmas. She has the gift of wonder, and her excitement is contagious. God loves extravagantly. He went all out with an angel song for shepherds. There is nothing wrong with going all out. The danger comes when we lose our focus on Christ and exhaust ourselves with an overwhelmed attitude. Those who choose not to celebrate Christmas citing the commercialization, pagan roots of some traditions or personal reasons aren’t breaking any biblical command either. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. What we need is balance and Holy Spirit leading to manage our time, talents and treasures in a way that honors the God we celebrate at Christmas.

Q: What are some of your family’s favorite traditions? How have they changed throughout the years?

When our children were little, someone shared with me the Jesse Tree project. It includes 25 short devotions with references to pages in the Beginner Bible. The stories begin with creation and end with the cross. The booklet also gave instructions for corresponding ornaments to place on a miniature Christmas tree. We made or bought these ornaments and wrapped them with Christmas paper. Our children enjoyed making many of them since we couldn’t find a fiery furnace or Ten Commandments scroll in stores! We used shrinky dinks, construction paper, pipe cleaners and a variety of craft materials. Each year I would wrap them all individually and put the corresponding number of the day it was to be placed on the tree on the package. Each night before bed we would do the reading, and the kids would take turns opening the ornament and hanging it on a small tree.

Once our children got into middle school, our bedtime routines changed with sports and youth group activities, and we found ourselves needing to catch up doing two or three ornaments every few days. Eventually we stopped doing the Jesse Tree devotions and ornaments and assigned each child an evening to share their own devotion on a Christmas topic of their choosing (star, angels, wise man, shepherds, etc.). They had to include a fun activity (game or craft) as well as a reading from Scripture and discussion questions. While I love to reminiscence our sweet nightly December times when they were little with the Jesse Tree, I also enjoy our new traditions with college- and high-school-aged kids.

Q: During the busyness of the holiday season, in what ways can we focus on relationships and valuing others?

If we aren’t careful, people can become scenery and machinery. The waitress who brings our coffee. The postal worker who brings the mail. These are real people with real stories. When we break through the reverie of our own to-do lists and start to see them, we can ask questions. We can begin to pray for them. We might even get the opportunity to share about Christ with words or show them Christ with generosity. We want to become “there you are” kind of people rather than “here I am” Christians. This will require us to be intentional in focusing on people rather than tasks during a busy time of year.

Melissa Spoelstra, author of Total Christmas Makeover

Q: The third section of Total Christmas Makeover focuses on rest. How are we supposed to work rest into December? Isn’t rest what January is for?

Rest requires preparation. It means we must leave some margin in our schedules and finances. We must block off chunks of time and guard them as an important commitment. Biblical celebration always required Sabbath. No regular work was to be done. This has never been as challenging as it is now with email on our phone and notifications galore. To take a true break from ordinary work, it might mean locking up devices or just checking them a little less frequently. Rest isn’t watching more television. It means giving our minds, bodies and souls a chance to stop and leave space to hear from God. True rest produces no work, but it does leave us refreshed and reflective.

Q: In what ways can rest mean different things for different people?

Introverts and extroverts often find different types of things restful. As an introvert, I like to rest alone. I enjoy reading, napping, sitting outside or going for a stroll. My extroverted husband still likes a good nap and some of these activities as well, but he feels rested talking with friends or family. He enjoys a family game or a walk with others. Being with people replenishes him while being alone recharges me. Each person must discover the type of things that help them feel rested and connected to God. At Christmas, I enjoy sitting on my couch each evening just looking at the lights on my Christmas tree. I think about my day and my God and take a few minutes to savor what Jesus has done in my life.

For more about Melissa Spoelstra and Total Family Makeover, visit melissaspoelstra.com. You can also follow her on Facebook (AuthorMelissaSpolestra) and Twitter (@MelSpoelstra).

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