Food for the Soul

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Posted 7/29/09 at 11:53 AM | Linda Massey Weddle

No Snickering, No Mockery and No Contempt - Well, Maybe a Little Bit

The talk show segment was entitled "No Stupid Questions" and was designed to encourage listeners to pose their unanswered questions about life. As the hosts introduced the topic they reminded everyone there would be no snickering, no mockery and no contempt as people asked their questions and other people answered. This was an opportunity to freely express your thoughts.

I listened as I drove home from work that day. As usual, the questions and answers zigzagged through a random series of subjects. And as usual, there was no snickering, no mockery, no contempt as people indeed, asked some not stupid (and some very stupid) questions.

But the mood changed when a young man inquired "Where did languages come from? How come there are so many? Why don't we all speak the same language?" FULL POST

Posted 7/25/09 at 7:27 AM | Richard Doster

Seeking an Enlargement of Our Being

A good friend of mine doesn't read fiction. Why, he asks, would I spend precious time reading about things that aren't true? Why would I get tangled up in a story that never happened? Why, he insists on knowing, should I get emotionally involved in some fictional set of circumstances when my own family's every bit as dysfunctional as Pat Conroy's?

C.S. Lewis, I suspect, answered the question best. We read literature, he said, because, "We seek an enlargement of our being."

If there's one thing I could change about myself, it's this: I want to be smarter. I want a better intellect. I want to know more, and I want to understand everything more deeply. All of us, I suspect, long at times to see from a different perspective. We want to reason with another's brain. We want to dream through some other imagination; we yearn to feel through a loved one's emotional grid. We want to get outside ourselves, to perceive the world through a framework other than the single, narrow one we've been given. As Lewis said, "We demand windows."

In his essay, An Experiment in Criticism, Lewis said that, "...this, so far as I can see, is the specific value of literature considered as Logos [the rational principle that governs the universe]; it admits us to experiences other than our own.... My own eyes are not enough for me," he continued, "I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough, I will see what others have invented."

Think about the best books you've read. Consider the experiences you had within their pages. Think about the characters you've loved and hated-from Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, to Ishmael and Ahab, to Holden Caulfield and Jane Gallagher, to Atticus Finch and Boo Radley.... What's the debt we owe to Mark Twain and Herman Melville and J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee? What have they added to our lives? Our thoughts? Our conception of what the world ought to be?

"Literary experience," Lewis said, "heals the wound, without undermining the privilege of individuality...In reading literature," he said, "I become a thousand men and yet remain myself ... Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do."

Richard Doster is the editor of byFaith, the magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America. He is also the author of two novels, Safe at Home (March 2008) and Crossing the Lines (June 2009), both published by David C. Cook Publishers. 

An Experiment in Criticism. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1961.

Posted 7/21/09 at 2:08 PM | Linda Massey Weddle

Eternal-Value Moments

Do something of eternal value everyday.

My dad was a master at creating pithy phrases. As a pastor, his mind was always working on forming concise thoughts. At home, we heard the resulting phrases with regularity. I grew up hearing words of wisdom reminding me to consider my options or to work hard and play hard or to give any job the extra ten minutes.

Dad passed away in 1999, but his words live on in my mind - none with more consistency than the ones above - Do something of eternal value everyday. FULL POST

Posted 7/19/09 at 7:21 AM | Richard Doster

Rethinking Christian Literature

Ask your neighbors for an off-the-cuff reaction to the words "Christian literature" and you're likely to hear them stumble through a list of belittling adjectives. Despite the swelling ranks of able Christian writers, the reaction demonstrates that we're viewed as an inconsequential presence in the world of literature. This image belies reality-in fact, Christians are heirs to the tradition of Chaucer, Dante, and Donne; successors to Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Chekov; the literary descendants of G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers, and of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and of Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy. Yet we have, willingly, banished ourselves to the "inspiration" section at the back of Barnes & Noble. And by doing so, we may have abandoned our neighbors and left literature in the hands of writers who'd leave them hopeless. 

All the names just mentioned were, of course, great writers because of their Christian faith, not in spite of it. They understood life and the world through Scripture's arc of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation. And they could, therefore, confront, challenge, entertain, and even delight those in the world around them.

Susan Gallagher and Roger Lundin, in their book Literature Through the Eyes of Faith cite the example of Ahab in Melville's novel Moby Dick. He nails a gold coin to one of the ship's post-a reward to the first man who spots the white whale. One day Ahab stops to ponder the coin. Ishmael, the narrator, reports that:

"...he seemed to be newly attracted by the strange figures and inscriptions stamped on it, as though now for the first time beginning to interpret for himself in some monomaniac way whatever significance might lurk in them. And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in the Milky Way."

Christian writers, unlike others, understand that every part of God's creation matters; that the world is not, therefore, an "empty cipher"; that it is more than a "cartload" of merchandise that takes up space in the void. Christian writers can delve deeper into the mystery of life and the world, knowing that the whole structure of the universe, as John Calvin put it, "manifest His perfections." The Christian writer, Flannery O'Connor once said, "presents mystery through manners, grace through nature, but when he finishes there always has to be left over that sense of Mystery which cannot be accounted for by any human formula."

Richard Doster is the editor of byFaith magazine. He is also the author of two novels, Safe at Home (March 2008) and Crossing the Lines (June 2009). Both published by David C. Cook Publishers. 

Sources used:

Gallaher, Susan and Lundin, Roger, Literature Through the Eyes of Faith. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989

O'Connor, Flannery, Mystery and Manners: The Church and the Fiction Writer, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1957.

Posted 7/17/09 at 2:47 PM | WinePress Publishing

Nothing New Under the Sun: The Link between Native Spirituality and the Occult by Jenn Doucette

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." - King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV)

Not surprisingly, King Solomon had it right; there really is nothing new under the sun. Translated in modern-day lingo: been there done that. And while this applies to pleasure, love, marriage, death, recreation, and possessions, there is serious implication on the spiritual level as well.
Nanci Des Gerlaise grew up in a First Nations home in Cold Lake, Alberta. The daughter and granddaughter of Métis medicine men, she experienced firsthand the darkness of demonic affliction. From her book, Muddy Waters (Pleasant Word, 2008):


Posted 7/14/09 at 4:26 PM | Linda Massey Weddle


We need to stop cutesifying Bible stories and teach our kids the all-empowering sovereignty of God and how that sovereignty is relevant to their lives.  (Yes, I know that cutesifying isn't a word, but you get what I'm saying.)

Recently I taught a children's church lesson about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. According to the teacher's guide, the lesson went something like this -

The Israelites lived in Egypt a very long time and wanted to move to a better land so Moses led them on a journey to another place. They traveled many miles across the desert and were often tired and thirsty but God took care of them. Can you imagine how hard that would be? What would you take with you if you were on a long trip? FULL POST

Posted 7/14/09 at 12:57 PM | Audra Jennings

One Man's Journey

Q & A with Arthur Blessitt, author of The Cross

The Cross by Arthur Blessitt
The Cross by Arthur Blessitt

On June 13, 2008, Arthur Blessitt walked his 38,102nd mile in Zanzibar, off of the coast of Tanzania, completing a journey that began in 1969. Arthur started walking with a twelve-foot cross on December 25, 1969, and has successfully carried a large wooden cross into every nation and major island group of the world.

In his new book, The Cross, readers can follow Arthur's journey from his initial call from God to carry a cross from Hollywood, where he was known as "the minister of Sunset Strip," across America, and then the world.

Q: Having carried the cross over 38,000 miles, you are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records under "World's Longest Walk." In the early days of your ministry, did you ever think you would achieve this kind of recognition?

A: You know, I never did. Though I'd begun preaching at the age of 15, I hadn't ever been particularly drawn to the cross as a symbol. My first cross walk was down the Sunset Strip and back to His Place, the coffee shop where I preached the gospel to hippies and drug addicts in the late sixties. The cross attracted a crowd, and they followed it back to our little shop. One night in 1969, I heard the voice of the Lord clearly calling me to carry the cross across America, so I did. Once that was finished, I was told to visit Northern Ireland, so I did. Before long, I was off to every sovereign nation...then to every major island group. My journey was never about setting a record. It was about obeying the call to bring the cross to everyone, everywhere.

Q: The cross is an almost universally recognizable icon, but the messages associated with it vary widely from place to place. What does the cross say to you?

A: So many people feel that the cross is against them. They look at the cross and the think the cross is against my sexual orientation or I had an abortion or I drink beer or I smoke cigarettes, so God hates me. I don't believe that the cross stands for any of those things. The cross is a sign from God that says, "I love you. I care. I came down and got involved in this mess of life. I became flesh and sacrificed myself on this cross to show you this love."

As I journey around the world, I find the cross to be a symbol of God's love that can be understood in spite of language and cultural barriers. But in many places-particularly in Muslim countries-the cross has historically been a sign of offense. It has not been a friendly symbol. These people often share the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." I try to counteract these negative attitudes when I walk with the cross. Instead of talking about Christianity, I try to focus on Christ and the love and grace of God. I have had the wonderful privilege of reinterpreting the cross-to walk into Muslim countries and not only to survive, but to be welcomed.

Q: In the summer of 1980, you walked through the war zone of West Beirut, where you were invited to meet with Palestinian Liberation Organization Leader Yasser Arafat. What did you say to him? How did he respond?

A: When I met Arafat face to face, I saw someone whose eyes were alive and sparkling. There we were, two radicals seeking to make men free. One had a cross and the other a gun. As we sat down, I said, "Sir, it's 2:00 AM. You have had a long day and a long struggle. I'm not here as a politician or a diplomat or a reporter. I'm just a simple man with a cross. And I would like to read you some of the words of Jesus." I started with the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. "Blessed are the merciful...blessed are the peacemakers." I read and shared many more Scriptures. Then I took Mr. Arafat's hand and prayed.

When I finished praying, he spoke softly. "There is no doubt the Bible is more powerful than the gun or the sword. The Romans tried to kill Christians. They beat, imprisoned, and murdered them. But slowly the believers, the Christians, took Rome, and Rome became Christian. They took it by heart. They did with the cross what no army had done." Arafat did not respond to my offer of salvation or my plea for him to lay down his weapons, but I left with the impression that I had just been with one of the most gentle and kind men I had ever met.

Q: What question do you hear the most as you travel the world?

A: You know, a lot of people are fascinated by the adventure stories. But I'm not a walking story. What moves me is my relationships with people, my encounters with individuals. And the question I hear most from those individuals around the world is: Tell me what you know about God. Why did I walk through war zones? I wasn't in search of adventure. I was drawn to the people in those places who needed to know about God.

Q: What is one of the most important lessons you have learned through your journey with the cross?

A: One of the most important things I have learned in my journeys around the world with the cross is that I should focus not on if, but rather on how. How do I get the visa I need? How do I get into a country that is difficult to enter? How do I get across that river or up that mountain? Those of us who want to go where Jesus sends us should remove from our vocabulary the small but potentially destructive word if.

I have carried the cross in 315 countries and island groups. In most of these nations I have had great experiences, although 52 of these countries were at war. I have seen beautiful places and wonderful people, but I have also seen horrors and tragedies. I faced a firing squad in Nicaragua; I was almost stoned and beaten in Morocco; I was attacked by police in Spain; a Los Angeles police officer tried to choke me in Hollywood; a man in Birdseye, Indiana, tried to burn the cross; a man in Nigeria broke the cross. I learned this simple lesson long ago: We need to follow God's call regardless of whether people love us or hate us. God's call is not conditional. It doesn't depend on favorable conditions, warm weather, or good moods.

Q: What is the most beautiful thing you've seen as you've walked around the world with the cross?

A: People! One of the privileges of carrying a cross around the world is meeting all kinds of beautiful people. And just as Jesus related to all people, I have tried to do that myself as I carry his cross. In our world today, it seems few of us desire or are able to relate to various kinds of people. I've had encounters with world-famous people like Pope John Paul II, Jimmy Carter, and Yasser Arafat. I've also shared meals with the poorest of the poor, the homeless. I've slept in remote villages where mine was the first white face any of the people had seen. And always, I have been awed by the beauty and joy of the children. In God's view (and in mine), all of these people are equally valued and equally loved.

Q: Having carried the cross through Communist, Islamic, and Hindu nations, what can you tell us about the power of the cross in those nations?

A: Christians in the West sometimes talk about nations that are "closed" to the gospel. Though it is true that some governments and people groups are resistant to the good news of Jesus, at least as they perceive it, I think we need to be careful: Focusing on the concept of "closed nations" can send a negative message. Christians often ask me, "When you were in such-and-such nation, didn't you feel darkness and the power of Satan?" Or, "When you met such-and-such terrorists, didn't you feel the evil?" My reply is, "No, I felt the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit." The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. I will not concede any place or any person to the Devil.

Q: What keeps people from doing big things for God?

A: Many people have dreams and visions of doing mighty things for God and making an impact on the world. That was my prayer also. And then Jesus said to lay it all down, and let your vision be no bigger than the next person you meet. Following that vision has carried me around the world. The most important thing God will ever tell you to do is the next thing. It's as simple as that. To follow Him is to live a life of obedience, and not to complain. Many times projects fail to move forward because people don't take one step at a time. They don't break things down into small, simple steps. As a result they are soon overcome by the insurmountable challenges that face them, and they give up.

You may never walk around the world carrying a cross. But I know God does have something He would like you to do. And the only way you are going to fulfill this calling is by starting our simple and following His call, step by step by step.

The Cross by Arthur Blessitt
ISBN: 978-1-934068-67-0/221 pages/softcover/$17.99

Posted 7/13/09 at 5:42 PM | Audra Jennings

David C Cook Novel Receives 2009 Christy Award

Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake
Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake

Jordan-Lake's Blue Hole Back Home wins the First Novel category

Publisher David C Cook is pleased to announce that author Joy Jordan-Lake has received 2009 Christy Award for excellence in Christian Fiction. The award was presented on July 11, 2009 at the tenth annual Christy Awards presentation preceding this year's International Christian Retailers Show in Denver, Colorado. Jordan-Lake's Blue Hole Back Home took home honors in the First Novel category.

Every year, The Christy Award invites publishers to submit novels written from a Christian worldview and copyrighted in the year preceding the awards. Each novel is entered in one of several genre categories and/or the first novel category. The novels are then read and evaluated against a ten-point criteria by a panel of seven judges composed of librarians, reviewers, academicians, literary critics, and other qualified readers, none of whom have a direct affiliation with a publishing company. David C Cook received three nominations this year across two categories.

Blue Hole Back Home tells the story of the summer of 1979 when 15-year-old Turtle hung in a mangy pack with her brother, his friends, a couple of dogs, and the New Girl-the one with the deeply colored skin whose father prayed on a rug facing East. That was the summer hearts and minds-and lives-changed forever in a small Appalachian mountain town. The novel is a burning story of racial hatred, cowardice, faith and redemption. Jordan-Lake explores the innocence of a young friendship and the prejudice that will tear it apart.

Author Joy Jordan-Lake is also the author of Grit & Grace: Portraits of a Woman's Life (Harold Shaw); Whitewashing Uncle Tom's Cabin (Vanderbilt University Press); Working Families (WaterBrook Press), and Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous (Paraclete Press).


Founded in 1875, David C Cook is a leading nonprofit discipleship resource provider based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For more than 130 years, David C Cook has served the Global Church with life transforming materials from best-selling books and curriculum, to toys and games and small group resources. With additional offices in Elgin, Illinois, as well as Paris, Ontario, Canada, and Eastbourne, UK, David C Cook is a global organization whose resources are published in more than 150 languages, distributed in more than 80 countries, and sold worldwide through retail stores, catalogs, and online. Through David C Cook's music division, Kingsway, over 30% of the top 500 praise and worship songs are written by Kingsway artists and sung in churches around the world. For more information, visit David C Cook on the Internet at

Posted 7/6/09 at 4:19 PM | Audra Jennings

Author Changes Orphans' Lives with Education

From Fiction to Real Life, Author Changes Orphans' Lives with Education

Author Tom Davis and Children's HopeChest sponsor the Scared $1 Million Education Fund and Writing Contest

I shall live in hope of getting what I seek another day. ~Swazi proverb

Tom Davis, President of Children's HopeChest
Tom Davis, President of Children's HopeChest

The number one need in Swaziland, Africa, is not what you think. It's true: Swazi people face the realities of poverty and disease and have great, pressing needs which must be met. But meeting these needs alone will not give children what they need to overcome their circumstances and to change their world-this can only happen through education.

In his new release, Scared (David C Cook, June 2009), author Tom Davis tells the story of Adanna, a young Swazi girl, and a jaded U.S. photojournalist on assignment in her country. Based on his experience working with orphaned children in Swaziland, Davis reveals the power of words to change lives-and the power of God to bring light and new life, even to the darkest of places.

Adanna's life story could be a blueprint for any of the thousands of Swazi kids Davis has met and worked with as CEO of Children's HopeChest ( -- a global orphan care organization. These children are brimming with potential, but lack even a shred of opportunity.

Beyond meeting basic, practical needs, the mission and passion of Children's HopeChest is to provide orphaned children the tools they need to become independent adults and mature people who can impact their communities and culture. One of the best paths for reaching this goal is education. With that in mind, Davis and Children's HopeChest have developed the Scared $1 Million Education Fund and Writing Contest.

Scared by Tom Davis
Scared by Tom Davis

The writing contest will be launched with the release of Scared this June. It is open to high-school aged orphans who are presently connected with HopeChest carepoints in Swaziland. Entries will be received in three categories: short story, poetry, and personal essay/memoir. The grand prize for each category is a university scholarship, and runner-up submissions will receive other prizes appropriate to their culture and need.

How the Writing Contest Works:

  • Children will submit their writing pieces (maximum of one per category). Submission deadline is September 1, 2009
  • A panel made up of Swazi teachers and HopeChest carepoint staff will judge all entries and select the top ten from each category.
  • The top ten finalists in each category will be posted on the Scared website,, December 1, 2009. People around the world are invited to log in and cast a vote for their favorites in each category.
  • Winners will be announced March 2010.

For more information, visit

Posted 7/4/09 at 3:28 PM | Richard Doster

A Lie That Makes Us Realize the Truth

I read novels with pencil in hand, ready to underline a sentence that's beautiful, a metaphor that's especially scenic, or any phrase that prompts an appreciative smile. Here, from page eighty-three of The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers, are three examples:

"Dalia sang fearlessly. She threw back her head and nailed free-flying notes like a marksman nails skeet. She sang with such unfurling of self that the congregation couldn't help but turn and look at the teenager, even when they should have been looking skyward."

A couple of paragraphs down:

"Delia could feel them as she sang, the hearts of the flushed congregation flying up with her as she savored the song's arc. She sheltered those in that safe spot up next to grace."

And then:

"When she finished, the congregation let out their collective breath. Their lungs emptied in a mass sigh, reluctant to leave the music's sanctuary."

I read sentences like that and think to myself: How does a guy take the twenty-six letters of the alphabet and sculpt something so beautiful?

The point I'm getting at is this: Novels consist of sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and sections, which are strung together word-by-word and even syllable-by-syllable. Which means, to read or write them, one must love the language -- the rhythm and cadence of it, as well as its power to provoke and entertain -- and even to provide good company. Novels, unlike essays or editorials, don't consist of ideas or elaborately developed concepts. They are words, threaded together one after the other, like pearls on a necklace.

There are some who insist that literature, to be useful, must replicate reality. But novels, if they're to accomplish what only they can, must be a product of the imagination -- transporting readers to a separate world, governed by circumstances, characters, and events of the author's creation. They may begin with what's known and familiar, but literature, when it serves its most exalted purpose, transforms reality. It offers perspective. It draws readers into a vicarious experience -- into an imaginary world that reveals, illuminates, and enriches the "real" one. It deposits us back into our concrete circumstances -- edified, entertained, and, one hopes, restored.

"Literature," as Leland Ryken so nicely puts it, "is built on a grand paradox: It is a make-believe world that nonetheless reminds us of real life and clarifies it for us." Or, as Picasso even more succinctly said: "Art is a lie that makes us realize truth."

Richard Doster is the editor of byFaith magazine. He is also the author of two novels, "Safe at Home" and "Crossing the Lines," both published by David C. Cook Publishers.

Sources that prompted these thoughts:

Ryken, Leylan, ed. The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith and Literature in Writing. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2002

Bloom, Harold. How to Read and Why. New York: Scribner, 2000

Powers, Richard, The Time of Our Singing. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2003

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