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Featured Articles

“Anne of Green Gables: The Musical” – a play review

AGG 1 Anne and MarillaAnne (Eliana Gonzalez) speaks with a stern Marilla Cuthbert (Pam White) in the Master Arts Theatre production “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical” photo credit: Rae Kruithof Who in the world could ever stand up to the irresistible, irrepressible, red-haired, pigtailed, wide-eyed Anne of Green Gables?

Certainly not her on-stage rivals, challengers and others. Nor anyone in the opening night, full house crowd in Master Arts theatre.

The indefatigable Anne – unrelentingly and lovingly portrayed by young local actress Eliana Gonzalez – won over everyone's hearts with a spirit that took her high above her circumstance. And the audience was happy to go along.

The well-known, early 20th Century story tells of an orphaned girl mistakenly sent to an adopting farm family which had actually requested a boy. The tale has seen several stage and screen adaptations over the years. But this musical version sprinkled with choreography especially highlights the whimsy and emotion of small-town life in the remote Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Band Charts New Waters

Smallbones with DollyJoel (left) and Luke Smallbone of For King & Country share an informal moment with Dolly Parton on the set of their new music video “God Only Knows” You never know where a song can take you.

The pop-rock duo For King & Country, featuring brothers Luke and Joel Smallbone, topped the Christian music charts this year with "God Only Knows." The hopeful ballad from their latest album tenderly tells of the love of God as a resource for the soul troubled by life circumstances.

But then country music superstar Dolly Parton heard the song and it has found a whole new life: a new recording, music video and millions of new listeners.

Trips to S. Korea Hearten Calvin Seminary President

Cutline No. 1-3 calvinCalvin Theological Seminary president Jul Medenblik holds a wooden cross he received while visiting South Korea. Rev. Jul Medenblik is a bridge builder.

Since becoming Calvin Theological Seminary's 7th president in 2011, Medenblik has jaunted to Egypt, Nigeria, China and Indonesia. Earlier this year, he traveled for the 7th time to South Korea.

It's at this country in East Asia where Medenblik met with alumni from Calvin Seminary which is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church in North America, as well as connect with prospective students. The seminary offers five masters degrees, six certificate programs and two doctoral degrees. Distance learning is available.

Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World

drrexDr. Rex M. RogersIt’s not rocket science to observe that Christianity is losing its influence in the American public square.

Unless you’ve lived in a box the past few years, this statement comes as no surprise.

Then again, it’s an axiom of human behavior that we tend to think “our day” is or was the “Best of times” – fond, if often over-stated memories of our youth - or the “Worst of times” – our bad experiences exaggerated with little perspective on what others have endured, at home or abroad. Historically speaking, we’re generally incorrect on both counts.

Terry’s Picks for Sept. 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian web writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for September:

Fall Concert Artists Bring Award Nominations

Dove 50th logoNominations for the 50th annual Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards were announced Aug. 14 in Nashville. And numerous of the honorees are on their way to West Michigan for concerts this fall.

For King & Country, the pop-rock band anchored by the musical brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, takes five Dove nominations to its Oct. 3 concert at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon. The group has nods for top song of the year ("Joy"), pop/contemporary song ("God Only Knows"), songwriter of the year, pop/contemporary album ("Burn the Ships"), and overall artist of the year.

The band performed last year at the Unity Christian Music Festival, and already is signed to return there in 2020. Tickets for their Oct. 3 concert begin at $20, available online.

Guiding Light Opens Fifth Transitional Iron House

glm7The new Iron House provides an ongoing supportive community for men breaking free from alcohol and drug addictions. Guiding Light took another leap forward to help men break free from the bonds of alcohol, drug addictions and homelessness.

This is Guiding Light's fifth transitional housing facility at 557 Andover St. SE in Kentwood that it opened, known as the Iron House.

Guiding Light purchased the home for $250,000.

The ministry now has the capacity to house 35 men at one time.

Summer Concerts Winding Down on an Up Note

WaterfrontST Building2View from behind the stage: Building 429 performing July 28 at Worship on the Waterfront in Grand Haven Time is running out to get in on West Michigan's summertime inspirational concert opportunities, many of which come in lovely outdoor settings and are presented on a free-will offering basis.

In terms of weekly events, perhaps the one with the consistently highest attendance is Worship on the Waterfront (WOW) in the newly-remodeled Lynn Sherwood Waterfront Stadium in downtown Grand Haven. Thousands gather each Sunday night for a diverse schedule of Christian music artists.

"We've had a beautiful summer down on the waterfront and attendance has been amazing," said coordinator Kathleen Bobeldyk of their seasonal outreach. The setting has been enhanced: a terraced area in the rear portion of the venue has replaced the former bleacher sections. There are no on-site chairs or benches so fans bring their own seating.

Park Setting Inspires Worship

church in park signA sign welcomes Sunday worshipers to Wedgewood Park A Grandville church is keeping a summer tradition it helped begin nearly 30 years ago.

Grandville United Methodist Church offers "Church in the Park" each Sunday, an informal worship service in the outdoor beauty of nearby Wedgwood Park on Wilson Ave. SW.

"I've been to church in the park since it started," said church member Nancy Kitchen, who often serves as a liturgist at the 8:30am service. "I like being outdoors in the summer, and I like the early start, too."

The gathering consistently draws between 40 and 70 worshipers, most of whom bring their own lawn chairs or blankets for the 45-minute service. That number has held true this summer, even through a series of guest leaders in place of the church's on-sabbatical pastor Ryan Weiland. He has now returned.

Terry’s Picks for August 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for August:

Climb a Mountain to Help People You Don’t Know? Definitely, Affirms Wyoming Resident Courtney Lanting

Courtney LantingCourtney Lanting: “Helping people is all that matters. There are a number of ways to raise money for worthy causes. Wyoming resident Courtney Lanting decided she would climb a mountain.

Mount Kilimanjaro in northeastern Tanzania to be exact. At 19,340-feet high, it's the world's 7th highest mountain.

Lanting, 29, scaled the inactive volcano in early August to financially support Carol Springs, Ill.-based Growing Hope Globally's ongoing agricultural training for struggling farmers in Kenya, Africa. She was joined by a small cadre of climbers.

Unity Undergirds Blessing of the Students

prayer778Veruynca Williams: “(BOTS) is a celebration of their incoming school year.” Unity in Christ will take center stage Aug.18 when Christians from an assortment of denominations gather for the annual Blessing of the Students (BOTS).

Now in its 26th year, BOTS is a confluence of students of all ages, clergy, school administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, community leaders, elected officials, bus drives and whoever else may come, to join in the unity of prayer, said Veruynca Williams, who founded BOTS.

Live music, dance and encouraging words are also in the mix.

Prolific Children’s Author Debuts New Book to Celebrate Baby

Wonder Cove High ResGlenys Nellist, author of the Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time series for children, debuts her newest picture book written specially to celebrate the birth of a new baby. "The Wonder That Is You" releases by Zondervan later this month, with Nellist marking the release with several local events.

"I remembered the experience of having my first son, Steven, back in England in 1984. I was overwhelmed but also full of joy," she said. "I went to sleep with Steven in the cot by my bed, and had a dream that I was flying through air in the dark. I flew to the top of a roof and sat there swinging my feet with joy. The moon and stars were twinkling and full of joy too. I felt as if all creation rejoiced with me."

Band Reboot Renews Faith-Filled Mission

Sanctus Real  standingSanctus Real (from left): Dustin Lolli, Chris Rohman, Mark Gaarlman The very future of Sanctus Real was in question.

The veteran Christian pop-rock band faced a mountain of uncertainty in 2015 when co-founder, lead singer and chief songwriter Matt Hammitt announced he was leaving the group.

"We had seen it coming, but we really didn't talk about it," recalled drummer Mark Graalman during a recent interview. "For myself, I just assumed it would all be done. Matt was such a major part and the signature of the band," he said of the group's history from its mid 1990s start.

But now it's 2019 and Sanctus Real is very much alive. The band has built on its previous catalog, releasing its second full album with new lead singer Dustin Lolli.
The revamped group visits Michigan several times in the coming days- July 27 at a one-day festival in Leonidas and Aug. 9 at the Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon

DcTalk Reunion Tour Coming Into View?

dc talk on cruisedcTalk today (l. to r.) Michael Tait, TobyMac, Kevin Max TobyMac has remained consistent through the years when talking about his former Christian music group dcTalk. An eventual reunion was always in the back of his mind.

"It's not a matter of 'if,'" Toby would say each time this reporter asked him about getting back together.

"It's just a matter of 'when.'"

The trio of artists – Toby McKeehan, Kevin Max and Michael Tait – had a terrific run through the decade of the 1990s: Four Grammy Awards, more than a dozen Dove Awards, and sales of more than 7 million albums.

Upcoming Widows’ Retreat Designed to Equip, Educate and Inspire

Susan VandePol No. 1-1Susan VandePol: “Widows find out they have a calling.” When area widows gather in October for a retreat at the Maranatha Conference Grounds in Muskegon, Susan VandePol will be there to encourage them to embrace a new path in their lives.

"They can expect to be equipped, educated and inspired by their biblical calling," said VandePol, whose husband of 22 years, Los Angeles firefighter Bob Ortega, died in 2005.

Finding their calling

"I start Friday night and close the weekend on Sunday morning on what God's Word says about widows and their place," said VandePol. "Their (widows) stories are so painful to hear but when widows find out they have a calling and take that protocol to their church. They grab onto that."

Since her husband's duty-related death, VandePol is helping families whose first-responder family members died cope with their loss.

Manna Report

ad2Summertime is often a time to kick back and relax, and things sometimes slow down a bit. But, this is not the case for Manna Media this summer!

Someone recently approached us and said, "Every time I turn on my computer, I see your ads." What an encouragement that was to us, and just a confirmation that our digital media campaign is working.

We are sending out our newsletter a little earlier than usual because the news is just too good not to share. Our Manna Media digital campaign launched on May 7, 2019, and today we are excited to report that our ads have appeared on over one million devices. And that means that over one million people have had an opportunity to be confronted with the gospel.

The DOCK Clothes Middle, High School Students with Christ’s DNA

Cutline No. 1-3dockSteve Roobol: “We show them the love of Christ by sharing the love of Christ.” Alexander "Xander" Szocinski became entwined with the tendrils of friends and fun when he started hanging out in his sophomore year at The DOCK, a year-round ministry at 4669 S. Division Ave. in Wyoming that's across from Kelloggsville Middle School.

"They have just about any board game you can think of," said Szocinski, a 2016 graduate of Kelloggsville High School. "Uno; that's the one I played the most with friends."

Szocinski stayed involved with The DOCK after high school, volunteering for a year where he says it helped him hone a work ethic. He also ran The DOCK's candy store for a time.

"Yeah, I was the candy man, that's basically what they called me," said Szocinski, who's a dishwasher/busser at a Mr. Burger Restaurant in Wyoming. "I had kids daily ask, 'When are you going to open it?'"

Terry’s Picks for July 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for July:

Steven Malcolm Includes GR Hometown on New Tour

Malcolm Steven kneeling outdoors-1West Michigan native Steven Malcolm was making final preparations for his upcoming, five-week hip-hop tour which includes a July 26 date in Grand Rapids.

"Due to all my upcoming traveling, we gatta find a new home for our dog," he posted to his social media followers in late June. "If anyone is interested in a 2 yr-old pitbull (fully trained, neutered and gentle) HMU (hit me up)."

No doubt by now Malcolm, 28, and his wife Teaira have found a caretaker for their pet at their Kentwood home. But the national Christian recording artist is also readying his on-stage program as headliner for the "Tag Team Tour" with his longtime performing partner Mark (the Baddguy) Evans II and special guest Maddie Rey.

"If I don't lose my voice every single night or wake up sore the next day...this tour wasn't lit enough," Malcolm noted of his performing enthusiasm.

Summer Reading Programs Flourishing at Baker Book House

bakerChildren and adults still have time to sign up for summer reading programs at Baker Book House, the leading Christian bookstore in West Michigan. Readers can register through the middle of July for the programs that have readers earning prizes based on hours read or books read.

More than 1,500 youngsters have already signed up for Read. Set. Explore!, with the store forecasting 2,000 registrants by mid-July. This is up from 1,500 last year, 1,200 the year before, and 800 the year before that.

"We want to have the best summer reading program in town," said Josh Mosey, Children's Product Buyer and director of Ready. Set. Explore! and the adult program. "We want to reward kids and adults for reading. If we can help kids develop a love for reading, they'll read their whole lives."

Faith Hospice Memorial Service, Counseling Enable Grief-stricken People Walk Back into Life

Faith Hospice No. 1From left: Faith Hospice bereavement manager Janet Jaymin enabled people like Sandi Veenkamp stay grounded in life and in the Lord.Sandi Veenkamp has walked through the valley of the shadow of death. But then, the Cascade resident discovered anew the anchor in her life that got her through the deaths of her husband, mother, brother and sister-in-law.

"I have a picture of the Lord reaching down and hauling somebody out of the mire and that was what He was doing all along (for her)," said Veenkamp. "There's no doubt in my mind the Lord was walking with me. I sit down in the morning and invite Him in mind, body and spirit."

World stretched

Veenkamp's world was stretched to the hilt when her husband of 48 years, Nick, died in June 2017 due to prostate cancer and a heart-related condition. The anguish didn't stop there. A week later, her brother and sister-in-law were killed in a traffic accident. Then in January 2018, Veenkamp's mother died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease complications.

Hillsong and Friends Lead Arena-Sized Worship

Brock MackMack Brock Hillsong UNITED heads the platform on its latest arena tour across the U.S. And even though the world- renowned worship music ensemble comes packing a huge stage show, worship is still the goal.

"It's a great production and (Hillsong) has a great team and it looks amazing," said Mack Brock, one of the guest artists on the tour. "In fact, if you were just observing it, you'd think it's an amazing show. But in the moment, it feels like worship."

The Hillsong Church, begun in Australia and now with campuses around the world, has a musical arm which is perhaps the leading source for modern worship music used in many contemporary churches.

Anthems such as "What A Beautiful Name" and "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" are standards in the modern worship catalog.

The tour, which includes Brock and Bethel Music lead singer/soloist Amanda Lindsey Cook, comes to Van Andel Arena on June 25 (see details below).

NFL Star Pens New Series for Tween Boys

Rashad-JenningsRashad JenningsRashad Jennings, retired NFL running back and Dancing with the Stars champion, is a man with many talents, dreams, and life goals. Some he's already accomplished—playing in the NFL for eight seasons—and some he's working on now. He created the Rashad Jennings Foundation, focusing on reading education and mentorship, and health and fitness (www.rashadjenningsfoundation.com); he organized a date night that blends his new love for ballroom dancing and his desire to be a marriage counselor one day; and he's written "Arcade and the Triple T Token," first of four in The Coin Slot Chronicles. The second releases later this year (https://www.arcadelivingston.com).

Jennings was in Grand Rapids recently for several events and to visit the offices of Zondervan, publisher of his new series. In the first book, Arcade is given a golden arcade token necklace that grants him the ability to time travel into the past and even into his future. He and his sister Zoe and a few friends have a lot of problems to solve!

317 Coffee is Rooted in Christ’s Love, Passion to Support Missions

Cutline No. 1-3Kelly Irish: “It’s been a joy to pull this place together.” Walk into 317 Coffee and you can immediately discern this is not a customary coffee house.

Yes, the expected products and related accoutrements inhabit 317 Coffee, 3424 Chicago Dr., Suite 101 in Hudsonville: coffee, expressos, hot chocolate, teas, sodas and smoothies are available for sale, as well as some goodies to munch on for good measure.

The shop is populated with tables and chairs, a padded church pew and a sofa where people can chat with one another, relax or surf the internet inside this cozy 1,000-square foot building where sunlight bathes its interior.

In a rush? A drive through window awaits.

Festival of the Arts Includes Faith-Based Efforts

The Growing Roots 2019Scott and Lisa Barry are The Growing Roots With churches hosting food booths and performances by area Christian music artists, the annual Festival of the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids is sprinkled with the talents of the West Michigan faith community.

The 2019 festival (Fri. June 7 through Sun. June 9) is the 50th year for the event, which has grown from two stages and a handful of food selections to a multi-faceted arts celebration. In years of favorable weather it's drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors over its three-day weekend. (Official lists of artists, food booths, activities and a map are available at www.festivalgr.org. All musical performances are free).

The diversity and curiosity of the casual listeners is noted by the performers – even from the stage. "It's an amazing feeling to see people intent on walking by, and to watch as your music captures them," said Lisa Barry, who with husband Scott comprises a Christian folk/rock/Americana duo called The Growing Roots. "You can see them perk up, stop walking and turn in your direction," she said of new connections to be made with audiences.

The Growing Roots performs at noon Sunday on the "Backdoor Pop Up" stage, just to the south of the Kent County Building on Calder Plaza.

Terry’s Picks for June 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for June:

Hymns Anchor New Book By Local Author

George BrainardGeorge Brainard with his new book on hymns George Brainard's investigation into great hymns of the Christian faith led him to some surprising finds. And they've ended up in the Grand Rapids native's new book, "Public Domain" - a fresh look at some of the "golden oldies" in our church hymnals.

For example, there's the story of beloved hymn-writer Fanny Crosby.

"I think most people knew that she was blind," he said of Crosby, who wrote the lyrics for "To God Be The Glory" and hundreds of other stately hymns.

"But she memorized huge chunks of scripture by the time she was 15, wasn't saved 'til she was 30, and didn't start writing hymns until age 40."

Brainard included three of Crosby's hymns in his new book, which features more than 60 songs grouped by theme into 10 categories.

All of the hymns are in the public domain (thus the title of the book), which means they are old enough to no longer have copyrights. The most recent hymn in the collection is Thomas Dorsey's, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," written in the early 1930s.

"That song was Dr. Martin Luther King's favorite," Brainard noted. "It was performed at his memorial service in 1968."

The oldest song in the book? "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" which dates to the 16th Century.

As Seasons Turn, Music and Inspiration Follow

Screwtape Letters perf shotActor Brent Harris (left) as Screwtape with his slavish demon in the play “Screwtape Letters” coming June 15. Here we are well into spring and most of the way to summer and the concert calendar is filling up quickly.

Let's look at the summer's arena-sized tour: Hillsong UNITED, with special guests Amanda Cook (from Bethel Music) and Mack Brock (formerly with Elevation Worship) lead a worship-based evening at 7pm Tues. June 25 in Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids. Hillsong has just released a new album ("People"). Tickets begin at around $25. Available via Ticketmaster,  Here's a video preview

MAJOR FESTIVALS

The Big Ticket Festival (June 26-29 in Gaylord, MI) features top name headliners, including Chris Tomlin, For King & Country and Danny Gokey: 60 artists over four days. And there are extras such as "experience tents," comedy, films and a strength team. For tickets online. Visit www.bigticketfestival.com  

Showcase Spans a Variety of Talent

Hark Up Horns Big BandHark Up Horns Big BandAdd a bit of this and that and you come up with quite a variety.

And with the combined talents of the artists from Hark Up and Master Arts Theater (MAT), you might as well call it a "Variety Show."

And as the official title implies – the variety includes everything from "shabby to chic" and will be on display in a program Sat. May 18 (details below).

"Actually, the phrase 'variety show' kind of dates it – we're more contemporary than that," offered Hark Up executive director Chris Hansen. "It's more like the Jimmy Fallon 'Tonight Show.'"

Indeed: included are vocal and instrumental music, sketch comedy, and interview segments led by comedic emcee Chris Knobloch.

Camps Roger, Scottie Offer Kids Overnight, Day Camps that Declare God’s Glory

RogerScottie Cutline No. 1“We believe there’s power in getting kids out into God’s creation,” said executive director Doug Vanderwell. With summer peeking around the corner, parents are on the lookout for fun and meaningful activities their children their can engage in while on hiatus from school. Doug Vanderwell has some ideas.

Vanderwell is executive director of Camp Roger in Rockford and Camp Scottie in Howard City. Both are nonprofit independent Christian camps not affiliated with a church or denomination.

"They're open to whoever would like to enjoy the camps," said Vanderwell.

Terry’s Picks for May 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for May:

New Music Review: “Let The Song Arise”

Hark Up cover art 2019The variety of talented musicians that make up the faith-based arts organization Hark Up have combined to produce a new album of praise and worship music titled, "Let The Song Arise."

The Hark Up Horns and the Hark Up Choir (featuring outstanding soloists Angie Royce, Colin Tobin, Breighanna Minnema and others) place their spin on both modern day and classic musical expressions of faith.

"A New Hallelujah," a Michael W. Smith anthem, includes vocals from both Tobin and Hark Up executive director Chris Hansen. The assembled artists also cover the David Crowder tune, "All My Hope."

Baby Boomers: Remember the haunting beat of "Spirit of the Sky," that late 60s-early '70s, psychedelic-sounding mantra? It also gets the Hark Up treatment.

Casting Crowns Messages Combine Video, Music

Casting Crowns 2Mark Hall (center) and Casting Crowns Casting Crowns has added a "picture story" to its latest record album.

Using the message of each of the new songs, the inspirational-pop band is releasing 11 video segments to tell a through-the-generations story covering five decades in a family's life.

"We thought, let's create a movie that builds around the songs," said lead singer-songwriter Mark Hall. "Not a music video, but about people just living their lives with the songs simply in the background."

The tunes on their "Only Jesus" release offer backdrops for the video segments.

One recently issued video features the song "In the Hands of the Potter." In the storyline, a granddaughter follows in her ill grandmother's footsteps by taking up pottery and art (watch online). It continues the family story established in the previous six episodes.

An “Unrelenting” Easter Message

Last SupperJesus (actor Kyle Warmington, center) and the Last Supper scene from last year’s drama One of the more obscure stories in scripture turns out to have an Easter theme in the latest drama staged by Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford, set for April 18-20.

"Unrelenting" - the title of the production - describes the love of God, pursuing his people through the lives of Old Testament figures right into the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

"It's a modern version of (the Old Testament prophet) Hosea," said director Vicki Modert, Blythefield's head of worship ministries. Modert and her writing team fashioned the original script.

A contemporary couple's marriage is strained with rumors of the wife's infidelity. Even when the truth comes to light, the college professor forgives her and "buys her back," exactly as God told Hosea to do for his unfaithful wife.

Two Authors Launch Children’s Books at Baker Book House

GoodnewsEasterBaker Book House will play host to two separate book launch parties for new children's books. Best-selling children's author Glenys Nellist will present her new book "Good News! It's Easter" during storytime at 10:30 am Thursday, April 11. And debut author Josh Mosey presents "3-Minute Prayers for Boys" at 6:30 pm Tuesday, April 16.

Family Network of Wyoming Serves Community with Respect

Family Network Cutline No. 1Sandy Jenkinson stands in Family Network of Wyoming’s warehouse area where a variety of where canned goods, paper products and bottled water are stored. When people line up to receive groceries at the Family Network of Wyoming, they receive more than a week's worth of food.

They also experience respect from the cadre of volunteers and two-person staff who keep this Christian nonprofit humming with purpose.

"Most importantly, we try to treat everybody with a little dignity and respect so they leave feeling good," said Sandy Jenkinson, an assistant to executive director Dale Echavarria.

Resurrection in Focus for Andrew Peterson

Peterson AndrewCredit-GilesClement 1521-RetouchedAndrew Peterson (photo by Giles Clement)Rare is the song that ends on a "suspended chord."

But the Andrew Peterson composition "God Rested" does exactly that. And the song provides a hinge-point in the artist's resurrection series showcase, which he brings to Byron Center on Sat. April 13.
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"God Rested" refers to the literal internment of a dead Christ, and is the last song in a musical prologue. It's the jumping off point to his collection "Resurrection Letters Vol. 1," full of joyful songs of Christ's victory over the tomb.

But a listener is left hanging with anticipation on that final note.

"We are living in a time of that suspended chord," said Peterson, 44. "We know we have a promise of Christ's return but we're in a tension of expectation and longing."

The very next song is "His Heart Beats." Its poignant resurrection depiction opens with the line "His heart beats, his blood begins to flow; waking up what was dead a moment ago."

Michigan Authors Top Christian Fiction Lists for Spring, Summer

michiganReaders looking for Christian fiction to delve into need look no further than our great state of Michigan. Authors from around the state have new releases this spring and summer that offer a wide range of genres and styles for eager readers. The month in parenthesis is the month of the book's release; all books are available at Baker Book House or online retailers.

Local Pair Helps Influencers Find Balance Between Serving God and Building Platform

Influence Front CoverTwo local authors, both working on their first books, faced the struggle many authors face: how to build a platform and serve God at the same time. Publishers are quick to say “Your platform isn’t big enough,” but authors, speakers, and ministry leaders can feel squeamish about promoting themselves and their work in order to collect followers on social media, blogs, and websites.

Shannon Popkin, author of “Control Girls: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible” (Kregel), and Kate Motaung, author of “A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging” (Discovery House), faced those struggles like many authors do. They join forces to take a deep look at platform and following Jesus in their new book “Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me),” which released in January.

“The tension is that if you want to pursue an agent or book contract or get accepted as a speaker at a conference, you have to already have a following,” said Motaung, host of Five Minute Friday, an online community for Christian writers. “But as Christians called to elevate Christ and humble ourselves, how can we be true to our convictions yet put ourselves out there?”

New Music Review: Underdog

Underdog  The gonz  2019The hard-working, West Michigan rap/hip-hop artist Ty Gonzalez (The Gonz) has a new collection of songs detailing his background and determination to share his message.

"Underdog" is largely the story of his life. From his upbringing ("Grand Rapids Made") to his busy schedule ("I Don't Sleep") and his life's musical mission ("Passion"), Gonzalez reveals his heart as he lays out his faith-based journey to serve his Savior.

There are tell-tale local references. A radio clip of the West Michigan Whitecaps baseball championship broadcast opens one of the tracks. Baseball was a large part of life for the Comstock Park native, who played the sport in high school and college and spent a chunk of his youth around Fifth Third Ballpark.

Christian Rap/Hip-Hop Tour Lands in West Michigan

KB  purpleIt's one of the biggest road shows in Christian rap/hip-hop – the Unashamed Forever Tour – back after a six-year hiatus with an all-star lineup of faith-based artists. Headlined by the award-winning Lecrae the tour features a variety of talents all under the Reach Records label.

One of those artists is KB (Kevin Burgess, pictured), who says the roster comes together under a cohesive theme.

"It's about the eternal aspects of our existence and what we do that impacts that," said KB, 30, from Nashville. "There's a universal message about being unashamed, and I think every artist in their unique way is beating that drum."

There will be plenty of on-stage collaborations as well as some solo time. "We've put together something special that a lot of folks will enjoy," he promised.

They're off to a good start – the first two weeks worth of shows were sold out in major markets such as Houston and Atlanta.

Terry's Picks for April 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for April:

Musically Weaving Their Way

Big Daddy Weave table shotMike Weaver (center) and Big Daddy Weave Mike Weaver said his band's new music fits hand-in-glove with the artists' renewed outlook.

"A lot of things were hitting us, but this has been like the Lord saying we've turned the corner," said the lead singer of the inspirational-pop group Big Daddy Weave.

It's been nearly four years since the band issued its last album. But after a stretch of life challenges, their new ballad "Alive" has been released and will be followed by an entire new collection later this year.

"This is a season of rest, even as we're touring," said Weaver, 43, on the phone from Nashville.

Big Daddy Weave comes to Hudsonville for a performance on March 29.
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