Food for the Soul

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Posted 5/27/09 at 5:37 PM | Audra Jennings

Operation Kid-to-Kid Brings Comfort to Kids in Crisis

What do think about when you read headlines about economic hardships, natural disasters, and politically charged conflict? Circumstances like these set families and entire communities reeling, and few people are affected as profoundly as the children involved. How do the littlest victims cope with the changes and uncertainty around them? And what can the church do to reach out specifically to these little ones?

Group Publishing, the premier publishers of children's Bible curriculum including Sunday school and VBS, believes that some of the best ministers to children experiencing disaster and hardship are other children. That's why they have created a program called Operation Kid-to-Kid (OK2K), which partners with nondenominational Christian ministries like International Bible Society and World Vision to provide opportunities for children in North America to share God's love with other children in difficult or disastrous situations. Since its inception ten years ago, Operation Kid-to-Kid projects have impacted millions of kids all over the world.

"Operation Kid-to-Kid is a great way to teach kids compassion and service," says Joani Schultz, cofounder of Group and OK2K. "Children learn by doing. It's one thing to drop a nickel in the offering plate, but when kids make a gift with their own hands, when they can be creative and personal, this leaves a real impression on both the givers and the receivers."

This year's OK2K project features two easy to make (no sewing required) Comfort Critters-small plush turtles with a sewn in pocket for exchanging pictures or notes of encouragement and hope. After they make the turtles, each child will keep one and send the other to a child in need. With a cute little turtle as a friendly and safe messenger, children will understand and communicate Christian compassion and the hope of Jesus. . . and they'll have fun doing it. Group offers many other resources for OK2K initiatives, including an affordable booklet entitled The Survivors: For Kids in Tough Places.

Over the years, OK2K has become one of the largest forces mobilizing children in serving other children around the world through gifts of school supplies, Bibles, hygiene kits, Christmas gifts, Bible coloring books, and socks and shoes. Between recent natural disasters and the global economic crisis, there are more opportunities than ever for children to show the love of Christ to other children-and not just for a VBS event. Operation Kid-to-Kid can mobilize service projects any time of the year.

Group is also starting a new venture between OK2K and Lifetree Adventures, an organization that combines unique vacations with meaningful service projects. This new venture will be the "follow through" option for those who feel called to take the VBS OK2K effort to the next level. For 2009, Operation Kid-to-Kid will sponsor a trip to New Orleans for children's leaders to deliver the Comfort Critter turtles to Katrina victims.

"There is still much to be done in New Orleans after the nation's largest natural disaster. You saw the horror of Hurricane Katrina where over 1,500 people died," says Group VBS Senior Editor Jody Brolsma. "But did you know Christians have led the way, quietly rebuilding and cleaning up after the disaster? Now you can help minister to the children of the 7th Ward, where flooding caused massive destruction. Take your passion for Jesus to kids who have lived through challenging times."

This trip is open to adult volunteers, but space is very limited. Service activities will include painting, cleanup, and repair of a volunteer center and homes in the 7th Ward and connecting with kids after school.

Plan now to connect with Jody and reach out with love to the kids and families of New Orleans, November 8-13, 2009. Visit or call 1.800.747.2157 to review the itinerary and reserve your trip.

Posted 5/27/09 at 12:17 PM | Audra Jennings

Bottke's offers contemporary fiction for mature women

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by Allison Bottke
You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by Allison Bottke

Where Life Is a Dance and Disco Is a State of Mind

In Her Latest Novel, Queen of Boomer Lit Allison Bottke Offers Mature Women Contemporary Fiction with an Attitude!

With over seventy-eight million baby boomers alive today, a demand for women's fiction that deals with age-appropriate issues has grown exponentially in recent years. Out of the ever-increasing number of novelists that feature characters in their 40's, 50's, and 60's, best-selling author Allison Bottke has distinguished herself as a true "queen" of boomer lit.

This summer, Allison will launch her new Va-Va-Va Boom series, published by David C Cook, where vibrant, successful fifty-somethings share laughter, tears, and advice as they pop into each others' lives via the Internet-and the airlines! Brought together in an online community known as Boomer Babes Rock, Susan, Patricia, and Mary form a fast friendship, even though they live in different parts of the country and lead completely different lives.

"My boomer babe characters are fun, fashionable, funky, and faithful women who are following the dreams of their hearts," Allison says. "I want to provide readers with enjoyable fiction about sassy and seasoned women achieving dreams, not complaining about their aches and pains. I also want to provide an honest but positive look at long-term marriage."

In You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, the first book in the Va-Va-Va Boom series, Susan Anderson owns and operates a hip hair salon on the Las Vegas strip, decorated with her collection of disco memorabilia accumulated decades ago when she was one of the beautiful people on New York's disco scene. Now happily married, Susan is known for her business savvy, her fabulous vintage ensembles, her faith, her big heart-and the impromptu disco dance numbers salon staff and clients join in when the spirit moves. If life is a dance, Susan's mastered all the moves.

But an exciting business opportunity, her husband's impending retirement, and her fiftieth birthday rock her world, shaking Susan's foundation and revealing regrets and painful memories she thought she'd dealt with. Will Susan be able to face her past, reinvent her marriage, launch a new dream . . . and keep on dancing?Allison Bottke spent 17 years as a professional fund-raiser before her personal journey prompted her to create the best-selling God Allows U-Turns anthologies. Now a popular speaker and author of hip-lit fiction as well as nonfiction, Allison was one of the first plus-size models with the Wilhelmina agency. Today, she has created a place where fun, fashion, food, family, and faith merge to empower and inspire boomer women all around the world. That place is

Allison Bottke, Author of You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
Allison Bottke, Author of You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

Author Bio

Allison Bottke spent 17 years as a professional fund-raiser before her personal journey prompted her to create the best-selling God Allows U-Turns anthologies. Now a popular speaker and author of hip-lit fiction as well as nonfiction, Allison was one of the first plus-size models with the Wilhelmina agency. Today, she has created a place where fun, fashion, food, family, and faith merge to empower and inspire boomer women all around the world. That place is

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by Allison Bottke
David C Cook/June 2009/ISBN: 978-1-434799-49-4/437 pages/softcover/$14.99

Posted 5/26/09 at 9:53 PM | Audra Jennings

Trading rumors of God for firsthand faith

Secondhand Jesus by Glenn Packiam
Secondhand Jesus by Glenn Packiam

Taking a Shortcut to God?

In Secondhand Jesus, rising author and musician Glenn Packiam helps Christians exchange rumors of God for a firsthand faith

We live in a culture of experts. Everywhere one turns, there are professionals touting advice on everything from how to repair your car to how to fix your marriage. And, in Christian circles, some have even started to believe that there are "God experts"-people who can pray in just the right way that God hears them or who worship in such a way as to make God listen. We begin to rely on these people as our sole source of information about God, rather than make the effort to encounter Him directly ourselves.

In his new book, Secondhand Jesus: Trading Rumors of God for a Firsthand Faith (David C Cook, June 2009), author and worship pastor of New Life Church Glenn Packiam summons readers upon a passionate quest-a holy pursuit-to truly experience Christ's power and love for themselves. "God wants us to know Him deeply and personally," Packiam says. "But there are no shortcuts to God. The Bible tells us that ‘The way to life-to God!-is vigorous and requires total attention.'" (Matthew 7:14, The Message)

God has offered us firsthand knowledge of His love, His grace, and His power. Yet so often, we too easily settle for someone else's descriptions, the Cliff notes from another's spiritual journey. We are content for others to do the heavy lifting and then give us the bottom line. And, like any secondhand information, after enough times through the grapevine, the truth about God deteriorates and crumbs of rumor are all that remain.

But when life derails, and things don't go as we had planned, our thin view of God is challenged. In those critical moments, we can choose to walk away from God, or to let our questions lead us home. When we choose to wrestle with God, to engage Him individually, we-like Jacob and Job and David-will see rumors die and revelation come alive. FULL POST

Posted 5/7/09 at 4:34 PM | Religion Ethics

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly - May 8

This week's edition of the PBS newsmagazine program RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY (distributed Friday, May 8 at 5 p.m., check local listings) will include the following reports: FULL POST

Posted 5/1/09 at 10:19 AM | Religion Ethics

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly - May 1

This week's edition of the PBS newsmagazine program RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY (distributed Friday, May 1 at 5 p.m., check local listings) will include the following reports:

  • The Moral Debate About Torture - Bob Abernethy talks with Dr. Shaun Casey from Wesley Theological Seminary and Dr. Jean Bethke Elshtain with the University of Chicago about the moral debate over whether torture is justified and what should be done to those who authorize it.
  • Sister Cyril - Fred de Sam Lazaro travels to Calcutta for a look at how Sister Cyril Mooney, an Irish nun belonging to the Loreto Order, is transforming the lives of thousands of underprivileged students.
  • Religion and Obama's First 100 Days - Kim Lawton reports on how some religious groups are assessing the first 100 days of the Obama Administration and their access to the White House.

Posted 4/23/09 at 3:54 PM | Audra Jennings

Ferris Wheel or Thrill Ride?

Dying to Live by Clive Calver
Dying to Live by Clive Calver

Dying with Christ

is the only true way to live

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Matthew 10:39

It's been said that Christianity is a "great adventure" marked by remarkable freedom and a heightened understanding of the value and sanctity of each moment. Christian faith is often represented as though it were a day at a theme park, replete with wild rides, wonderful surprises, and tantalizing perks and rewards. Many of us were attracted to Christianity because it offered something unique and inspiring: the opportunity to live a life marked by the same kind of power that rolled away the stone and raised Christ from the dead. But there's a problem-the power that drew us to the faith is conspicuously absent from our daily lives. What was once an exciting thrill ride of Spirit and emotion has turned into a slow and monotonous grind on the Ferris wheel of life.

In his new book, Dying to Live, Clive Calver tells how the excitement that characterized his conversion was slowly replaced by a melancholy and empty faith. He recounts the powerful realizations that led him back to a genuine and full faith in Christ that is richer than ever before. Calver gives some wonderful insight on what it means to "re-start" a stale Christianity in favor of a walk with God that is marked by true power and abundant life. This power and abundance, according to Calver, can only be attained through death.

Dying to Live is in the same vein as the great writings of Francis Schaeffer, who often wrote about "the centrality of death" in the Christian life. Calver writes that, in his own experience, "It was becoming clear that Jesus' death on the cross had achieved two things: It showed me the way to live and it showed me the way to die." Death for the believer means transformation through the work of Jesus and not "self-improvements in my old life."

After seven years as head of World Relief, a ministry dedicated to partnering with the local church to help the most vulnerable people on the planet, Calver decided to return to pastoral ministry in order to teach the church what he had learned about living a life of lasting impact and eternal meaning. Dying to Live embodies Calver's long running commitment to presenting a clear picture of the gospel in a way that is deep, yet dinner table authentic.

More than anything, Calver's message in Dying to Live bucks the trend of much of today's Christian literature by warning against "programs and processes" that lead to greater individual benefits. Instead, he argues, "When we stop trying to prove or to improve ourselves, God can step into our lives in a fresh way." Rather than offering works-based platitudes and step-by-step plans for growth, Calver simply and effectively calls us to "surrender our inner nature and priorities for a higher purpose."

Dying to Live deals with the epic themes of crucifixion, surrender, sacrifice, giving, and exchange in a way that points believers to give up their own efforts in light of the completed efforts of Christ. Calver calls on the power of death to bring the thrill and spark back to the Christian life. In so doing, he brings hope to those stuck on the Ferris wheel of faith that greater power-even the power of the resurrection-awaits those who die to live.

Dying to Live by Clive Calver
Authentic Publishing March 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934068-80-9/154 pages/softcover/$16.99

Posted 4/23/09 at 3:17 PM | Religion Ethics

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly - April 24

A Production of Thirteen for WNET.ORG

This week's edition of the PBS newsmagazine program RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY (distributed Friday, April 24 at 5 p.m., check local listings) will include the following reports: FULL POST

Posted 4/23/09 at 12:18 PM | Audra Jennings

From the Killing Field to the Mission Field

Emmanuel Kolini by Mary Weeks Millard
Emmanuel Kolini by Mary Weeks Millard

From the Killing Field to the Mission Field
How Rwanda's Christian Leaders Are Saving the American Church

Walk into many Anglican churches in America on Sunday, and you will have no problem finding a seat. Membership is declining steadily, perhaps in direct proportion to increasing liberalism. The acceptance and practice of homosexuality within church leadership has caused worldwide concern. Basic truths of the faith have been abandoned and the authority of the Scriptures undermined. Many individual congregations are left with a dilemma. How can they retain the Anglican traditions they love while staying true to their consciences and to the Word of God?

The solution to this dilemma is one that turns the North American tradition of missions on its head. In her new book, Emmanuel Kolini: The Unlikely Archbishop of Rwanda, author Mary Weeks Millard shares the inspiring life story of a humble leader whose ministry has united a fractured nation. Now he speaks with the voice of a prophet calling his people to return to biblical truth.

In 2000 Archbishop Kolini, together with Archbishop Moses Tay from the province of Southeast Asia, came to the aid of some of the struggling members of the Episcopal church in North America by establishing a missionary organization, the Anglican Mission in America, charged with the commission to preach the gospel and make disciples in North America through church planting. AMiA's focus on the Scriptures, the Spirit, and the sacred has been embraced by many existing congregations in America who have chosen to realign themselves under the authority of Archbishop Kolini.

For Kolini, the burden of leadership has brought many seasons of loneliness-for example, the time period following his public contradiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury. "It is not easy to stand against a majority for the sake of your conscience, yet this is what Kolini has been able to do, even though it has made him unpopular within some ranks of the Anglican community," Millard says. "His position has often been misunderstood and even ridiculed."

As the newly appointed Archbishop of his native Rwanda, Kolini was the first leader from any denomination to offer a public apology for the failure of his church to respond immediately to the genocide of 1994-a murderous spree that was carried out with shocking, sickening efficiency while the rest of the world carried on with "business as usual." Kolini inherited a region steeped in pain and bitterness, one in which many of the bishops had long since fled the country and the traumatized people were desperately in need of a shepherd. With God's help, he has met every challenge, even serving as the unlikely shepherd of a growing number of churches in North America.

Emmanuel Kolini: The Unlikely Archbishop of Rwanda traces the story of this remarkable man through the impoverishment and racial tensions of his childhood, the years spent in refugee camps, his life as a husband and father, and his ascent through the ranks of Anglican leadership. Based on their friendship of almost ten years, Millard shines the light on the inner workings and motivations of a leader who has inspired cooperation between Muslims and Christians, led the way in restoring a nation ravaged by genocide, and pioneered HIV/AIDS initiatives.

Times of war, oppression, and adverse living conditions can break a man-or they can forge him into the leader for which the world has been waiting. From the villages of Rwanda to the gleaming sanctuaries of North America, Archbishop Kolini is that leader.

Emmanuel Kolini by Mary Weeks Millard
Authentic Publishing January 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934068-65-6/239 pages/softcover/$16.99

Posted 4/23/09 at 10:50 AM | Audra Jennings

Conard inspires women to embrace God’s design for them

Ruth Conard, author of Designer Women
Ruth Conard, author of Designer Women

Q & A with Ruth Tuttle Conard
Author of Designer Women: Made by God

This Sunday, a woman somewhere in America will don the literal head covering of 1 Corinthians 11 and depart for church, where she will be expected to remain silent. In another church, a woman will stand before the congregation to deliver the sermon. Most of us will fall somewhere between these two extremes-no head covering required and free to teach children or other women or to accompany the church choir, as long as we remember that some spiritual gifts are off-limits to us. In this climate, many women are spiritually suffocating, unique giftings and God-given callings crushed by a male-dominated church culture determined to keep them in their place-regardless of what God is doing.

For author, ordained minister, and international speaker Ruth Conard, these feelings of rejection and confusion are all too familiar. Despite the contradictions in opinion within the church, Conard believes that God is consistent in His love and His plan for women. In her new book, Designer Women: Made by God, Conard inspires women to rise up and embrace God's unique design and purpose for them by examining the biblical accounts of women who were mightily used by Him.

Q: Designer Women examines the lives of several women in the Bible, including some who are often overlooked. Why is it important for Christian women today to study these stories?

A: Throughout the Old Testament, God's initial, redeeming plan continued to emerge through the lives of women who rose above the constraints of custom, the body-centered mania, and the fear of men. These women, as leaders and strong examples in varied facets of life, did not act because there were no good men, but rather because they were good women, created in God's image, gifted by God, and working in obedience with their Maker. These women of strength were pillars in home, society, and faith communities. These are the foremothers of all the women we celebrate within the pages of the New Testament: Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, Dorcas, Priscilla, and a myriad of others. And they are my foremothers and your foremothers with much to teach us.

Q: What is the biggest question that Designer Women was written to answer?

A: The big question is this: Do we have a consistent God for women? I have been in all kinds of churches, and it seems God is pretty consistent for men. They don't have to change their clothes, all offices are open to them, they have been redeemed from everything, etc. For women, the verdict on these issues changes from church to church. One issue I struggled with was the head covering of 1 Corinthians 11. In some churches, I had to wear it if I sang or played the piano. In others, no. In some places, I had to wear it if I spoke, even if speaking only to women. In some, I had to wear it even though I was expected to sit quietly, not permitted to say a word. In other churches, what was on a woman's head had nothing to do with anything at all. Then there were the questions that always plagued me regarding spiritual gifts, as well as the part women could, would, and should play and had played in the church.

Q: How did your treatment as a woman affect your passion and enjoyment of your faith?

Designer Women by Ruth Conard
Designer Women by Ruth Conard

A: Over the years, I began to ask ministers and male church leaders these difficult questions. The answers I received, along with divergent church practices, became like huge bars on which I slipped and slid. Eventually, the struggles filled my mind with an enormous, resounding No! No! to the questions. No! to what I sensed were the gifts God had given me. No! to the exuberant joy I had felt in walking with Christ since childhood. And, oh so sad, No! to the missionary spirit God had sewn into my very being. Why, I reasoned, should I invite other intelligent, gifted women into the church only to have their fervent, creative, God-given hopes squelched?

Q: Who was Designer Women written to reach?

A: I wrote this book simply for the woman in the pew. I want her to get a little shaken up. I want her to look into these issues. I know only too well the pain, frustration, and loneliness that come when your God-given gifts are squished out of you simply because you are female. I want women to see that, yes, God is consistent in His love for women. We were designed exactly the way He wanted us to be-no matter what kind of treatment we have received from others in the church. I believe there is hope for us.

Q: Isn't the Old Testament full of laws against women? With laws like these, doesn't it seem like God prefers men over women?

A: We must continually remind ourselves that between the foyer of God's original plan (Genesis 1-2) and the vast outlay of the Old Testament lies the narrow, dark hallway of Adam and Eve's sin. Their choice taints all the rest of Scripture's pages, as well as our own lives today. The results of their choice, described by God in Genesis 3, are carried out within the context of the patriarchal system that formed the parameters of their society. It's true, the language used in the Old Testament law supposes a patriarchal society. The household belonged to the man. The man initiated a divorce. Property, family name, and children were all owned and given from the father to sons, not to daughters. However, the law does not depersonalize women. Women were held responsible for criminal actions. Mothers, as well as fathers, were supposed to receive honor. In fact, many of the Mosaic laws which may seem ridiculous to modern readers were actually for the protection and health of nomadic women and their families in the severe desert conditions. The main point to remember is that the law was not developed to make a statement about male-female relationships. The patriarchal system and male domination did not exist because God favored one sex over the other. The law was given so that the Israelites would be recognized as God's people, no longer belonging to Pharaoh.

Q: What are your feelings regarding the ongoing debate about the roles of women in the church?

A: What is extremely fascinating to me is that this continual battle over women in the church does not seem to have caused any problem for God and how He has designed his daughters. The reading of church history shows that in every century since the beginning of time, and in every land where Jehovah God has been acknowledged and the gospel has reached, women have always carried the good news of salvation, have always served God with whatever gifts He has given (whether quieter gifts or more visible gifts), and, alongside their brothers, have died for the cause of Christ. It's happening today, even as I was in the process of writing Designer Women. And God is still creating baby girls, all over this world, who grow, confess Jesus as Savior, and are given spiritual gifts from the complete list of gifts, as the Spirit wills, even while men and women continue to say that it just isn't possible!

Q: Why did women choose to follow Jesus during His earthly ministry? What does that mean for us today?

A: Jesus was countercultural, especially in the area of gender. No off-color jokes, no demeaning attitudes, and no avoidance of women. He never abused them in action, word, or thought. When they raised questions, He never said "not goin' there!" and then snickered with His male disciples. He respected them and their actions toward Him, even when others in His party scorned them. He listened to women, dialogued with them, and sought them out. He didn't define the parameters of their lives. He was not afraid to touch them in public, accept their worship, commend their faith, and heal them. He talked straight to them about their sin and how to do right. Nor was He backward in treating them as full-blown, intelligent, competent adults. It's no wonder women followed this man. This same Jesus walks beside you and me today!

Designer Women by Ruth Tuttle Conard
Authentic Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-934068-75-5/238 pages/softcover/$14.99

Posted 4/17/09 at 10:29 AM | Religion Ethics

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly - April 17

A Production of Thirteen for WNET.ORG FULL POST

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