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Featured Articles

A Time to Say Thanks

dan seabornA few years ago many retailers started the tradition of opening their doors on Thanksgiving. Black Friday was no longer enough of a jump start on holiday profits. These stores offer such magnificent deals that even the most loyal Thanksgiving proponents consider sneaking away for a chance to buy that big screen TV at a ridiculously low price. Every year it seems a petition goes around on Facebook to stop these retailers, but so far that has not been successful.

I'm not writing this article to settle any debates, but rather my goal is to talk about the meaning of this day for you and your family. Maybe it will help you decide whether you should shop till you drop or give in to a tryptophan-induced nap on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s Beginning to Sound A Lot Like…….”

Hark Up Horns Big BandThe Hark Up Horn Big Band It's time again for our annual Christmas concert preview. And as usual there are plenty of seasonal events to choose from.

The "season" actually backs up into November, but this listing will concentrate on those which actually occur in December.

The month starts up with a blast from "Hark Up" with four performances Fri-Sun Dec. 1-3 at DeVos Center for Arts and Worship at Grand Rapids Christian High School.

Safe Haven Ministries Expands Role in Battling Domestic Abuse

Executive Director Megan HopkinsExecutive director Megan Hopkins displays a rendering of Safe Haven Ministries’ future facility. Safe Haven Ministries (SHM) has provided a refuge for women and children who've fallen prey to domestic abuse for nearly 30 years.

Building on its wide-ranging approach to solving emotional, spiritual, physical and financial abuse and sexual assault are new initiatives intended to amplify its capacity to provide hope and healing to those maltreated.

New executive director

Megan Hopkins was tapped as SHM's new executive director, a role she's held as interim executive director since May.

College Choir Spreading Music of the Gospel

Gospel Choir led by Nate GlasperNate Glasper directs the Calvin College Gospel ChoirNate Glasper Jr. has watched the Calvin College Gospel Choir blossom in new ways in first year as leader of the ensemble.

"When I started as director (in July of last year) there were 38 members," recalled Glasper during a recent interview. "And this year that has grown to 67." (The Calvin group presents its annual fall concert at 3 p.m. Sun. Nov. 19 - see details below).

“The Garden” A Focus For Singer Kari Jobe

Jobe Kari singing at the 2017 Dove AwardsKari Jobe performs at the 2017 Dove Awards The inspirational theme for Kari Jobe's latest album points to the view outside her home's back window.

"The Garden," centered by its vulnerable yet hopeful title song, captures an emotional journey which culminates in the realization of God's healing of the soul. (Jobe brings her musical tour featuring "The Garden" to 20 Monroe Live on Sun. Nov. 12 – see details below).

"My sister and I were pregnant at the same time – she was a few months ahead of me," recalled Jobe, 36, from her Nashville area home.

Smashburger Manager Credits Mel Trotter, God’s Peace for Straight and Narrow Life

Tony Johnson No. 1Tony Johnson: “I made it because I surrendered.” Tony Johnson represents a "first" for Mel Trotter Ministries (MTM). He is the first former resident of this multifaceted ministry to the homeless who serves as a trustee on its Board of Directors.

"I made it because I surrendered; God changed my life," said Johnson. "I'm blessed. To surrender your will means taking yourself out. There's no pride, no arrogance. I serve the King."

Then, without hesitation, Johnson recites Proverbs 3 5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Avoid the Mulligan Mentality

dan seabornIn the game of golf, if a player hits a shot poorly, at times he or she is allowed to take a gimme. Officially, it's called a Mulligan—the first shot is disregarded completely, like it never happened in the first place.

I worked with teens for many years, and in that time, one of the most frustrating aspects of my job was dealing with parents who had a Mulligan mentality, moms and dads who were using their kids' lives to make up for the past. It was as if the sons and daughters were do-over's—I really sliced that first one, but I'll aim better this time around.

Doves a New Spotlight for West Michigan Artist

Malcolm S perf at 2017 Doves w HollynSteve Malcolm (center) performs at the Oct. 17 Dove Awards in Nashville Grand Rapids native and hip-hop/rap artist Steven Malcolm didn't win any of the three Gospel Music Association Dove Awards for which he was nominated.

But the experience of the Oct. 17 award ceremonies and surrounding activity left a strong impression.

"Last night was like a dream," he posted to Facebook followers the day after the Dove festivities.

Panel Reviews Lessons Learned From Segregated Christian School

Panel 1From left: Johnathan Bradford, Chris Meehan, Rev. Duane VanderBrug and Rev. Reggie Smith. Denominational mores and entrenched racism yielded to scriptural inclusiveness following black parents' struggle during the turbulent 1960s to enroll their children in a segregated Christian school in Cicero, Ill, a suburb of Chicago.

The effort to unsuccessfully integrate Timothy Christian School — and the scriptural lessons learned from the fracas — was recounted at a recent panel discussion held at Calvin College's Chapel.

The 1960s dust up eventually birthed the CRC's Office of Race Relations.

Here Comes the Bill

dan seabornSummer is a big season for weddings and it seems like our society has lost perspective on the price of nuptials. I recently learned that couples in New York are spending as much money on their wedding day as they would to buy a small house in the Midwest. That's what a survey by the website TheKnot.com revealed. The average wedding in New York costs around $77,000, while the cheapest place to get married is Alaska at an average cost of $15,000. Brides spend around $1,200 on a wedding dress while grooms only pay about $230 for their tux. The average cost of a wedding cake is about $560. It's no wonder that the cost of weddings has skyrocketed and why weddings are a 50 billion dollar a year industry.

Children’s Story Gaining Support to Take Flight

LuluBook CoverThe tale of a young African girl's trek to get clean water is whimsically told and illustrated in the forthcoming book "Lulu and the Long Walk."

"What I love about this story is that it allows parents to engage with their child on a serious topic in a lighthearted way," explained Joel Schoon-Tanis, the Holland-based artist who did the colorful pictures in the 32-page book.

The underlying topic is the lack of clean water in rural Africa. That circumstance forces many residents to travel long distances each day for a basic need that we take for granted.

The Story Behind Her Art Tells Tale of Paying it Forward

Karen PetchauerKaren Petchauer stands near the two pencil drawings she created for ArtPrize Nine. The two color pencil drawings Karen Petchauer drew for ArtPrize Nine contrasts what Degage Ministries' building looked like in 1928 when it was the Moose Lodge and how it appears today.

But there's more to her artistic renderings than meets the eye when they were displayed on Degage's windows at 144 S. Division Ave. during the international art competition that ran from Sept. 20 to Oct. 8.

The drawings are homage to Degage Ministries when Petchauer found herself homeless and in need of positive ways to rebuild her life.

New Music Review: "Close"

MarvinSapp Close album cvr-hiGrand Rapids pastor and national gospel music artist Marvin Sapp celebrated the arrival of his 11th solo album with a listening party at his church in his hometown.

Sapp performed some of the songs on the new "Close" CD on Sept. 29 to several hundred fans and friends at Lighthouse Full Life Center Church on Madison Ave. SE.

Restoring News Media’s Credibility Must Happen Soon; Here’s How to Fix it, Urges Journalist

Mollie Hemingway Mollie Ziegler Hemingway: “I would love to see the media repair our damaged credibility and I think it could happen and I wish it could happen soon.”The mainstream news media is long overdue for some serious soul searching, a journalist said at a recent Acton Institute Speaker Series.

The Acton Institute, 98 E. Fulton St. in downtown Grand Rapids, is a think tank whose mission is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, spoke recently to a capacity audience inside the Acton Institute's Mark Murray Auditorium. She said the media repeatedly demonstrates it is out of touch with the time-honored values of the majority of its dwindling audience that looks askance at the veracity of its reporting.

Grand Rapids Church “Outstanding Venue” Finalist at Art Prize

bloodline“Bloodline” is an Art Prize 3-D finalist displayed at Monroe Community Church. An Art Prize juror called it "a perfect surprise" and "a breath of fresh air."

Monroe Community Church on Monroe Ave NW just north of downtown Grand Rapids is one of five finalists for the Art Prize "Outstanding Venue" award. Juror Larry Ossei-Mensah selected the finalists from among 170 venues participating in the annual arts competition, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city each year.

"As far as we can tell, we're only the second church ever to be recognized with this 'shortlist" designation," said Steve Fridsma, the church's Art Prize team leader.

New President Eyes a First for Kuyper College

Patricia HarrisDr. Patricia Harris: “It’s obviously a challenge but God will be glorified and our students will flourish.” When Dr. Patricia "Patti" Harris becomes Kuyper College's fifth president Oct. 12, it will mark a milestone in the school's 78-year history.

Harris also will become the first female to helm the school — or perhaps not.

According to Harris, who's been Kuyper's provost since 2013, that distinction should go to Johanna Timmer, who founded the newly formed Reformed Bible Institute in 1939 — later renamed Reformed Bible College and now Kuyper College.

Art Prize Tree Provides Biblical Connection

Trees Will ClapThere's at least one entry in this year's Art Prize in Grand Rapids that brings a scripture verse to life.

It's a large, tree-like sculpture that actually gives forth the sounds of applause, echoing the refrain of Isaiah 55:12, "....the trees of the field will clap their hands."

"That verse has always been a favorite of mine," said Dave Vander Molen of Grandville, creator of the wood, metal and plexiglass work.

"I love that image of a tree....it has spoken to me for a number of years."

Thinking about Vern: A Personal Reflection on the Late Vern Ehlers

vernVernon J. Ehlers was a scientist, educator, politician, photographer and gardener. But after the August 15, 2017 passing of the former West Michigan Congressman, I reflected on a special connection I felt with this gifted man that resurfaced throughout the years.

Any formal biography of Ehlers lists his hometown as Pipestone, a city in southwest Minnesota. Actually, that's the location of the hospital where he was born and the county seat where birth records are kept. His "real" hometown was in nearby Edgerton, a small Minnesota community of around 700 at his 1934 birth.

Northeast-side Congregations Partner to Form One Church with Two Campuses

northvewThe auditorium of the Northview campus of BHBC was completely renovated.Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford and Northland Baptist Church in the Northview area are coming together in a partnership in which Northland becomes the Northview campus of Blythefield Hills (BHBC).

"We've been in the process of extending ourselves to befriend and partner with a number of churches, particularly smaller churches that don't have as many resources," said lead pastor Matt Zania. "We opened the door to a relationship with Northland; Ben Phebus, the pastor, open the door to a multisite partnership."

Sunday, September 17, is the official kickoff of the new partnership, with long-time BHBC pastor Don Pearson taking on the role of Northview campus pastor.

Mission India’s New Location Signals ‘God is in This Whole Project’

Mission India No. 1Mission India’s new address is 1142 44th St. SE, Kentwood.Next year will mark a milestone for Mission India when it celebrates its 40th anniversary. Another high point arrived sooner when the nonprofit recently relocated from its Grandville location to a 9,500-square foot building in Kentwood at 1142 44th St. SE.

Its new digs equate to about 500-square more space where a staff of 42 work at what is Mission India's world headquarters; another nine regional directors work off-site.

"We could have renewed the lease (in Grandville) but we wanted to see what was available," said Mike Jackson, Mission India's vice president of finance and administration. "This one came up here and in the right price range for us."

Eerdmans Announces Fall Warehouse Sale

erd25Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company opens the warehouse doors for its first Fall Warehouse Sale on Sept. 8-9, inviting buyers to take advantage of deep discounts on many Eerdmans titles.

"We invite people to shop in our warehouse and see what's in there, and also visit the bookstore to see the specials there," said Scott Watson, bookstore manager.

Hundreds of titles will be 60-80 percent off, and all Eerdmans titles will be at least 50 percent off, Watson said. The bookstore's usual discount of 20 percent will apply to books by other publishers.

Diagnosis: In-Law Syndrome

dan seabornOnce again, cold and flu season is again about to be overcome by a mysterious disease. This new disorder is caused from marriages that have occurred over the summer. It is typically the busiest bridal season.

All of this means one key thing: there's a whole new batch of parents out there who are going to be newly exposed to the life-threatening grips of In-law Syndrome.

In-law Syndrome (ILS) is a unique disease that appears in parents whose children are married. Parents whose children are unmarried seem to be largely unaffected by ILS; however, in some instances the onset of the disease is premature, brought on when a child gets engaged, begins dating, or (in most severe cases) develops a crush on that other kid in the playpen.

Roosevelt Park Ministries Offers Labyrinth of Services

roosBree Bode is RPM’s program director and Steven Drewry is its executive director. There are some very good reasons why Roosevelt Park Ministries' moniker is in the plural.

Since it's founding 21 years ago by the former Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church in partnership with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, RPM has grown to include 25 programs. Services range from employment help, to counseling and legal services, to youth development, community enrichment and tax services, as well as support services, such as translation of documents.

Baker Book House Sees Huge Growth in Popular Summer Reading Program

bakersummerThe Baker Book House children's summer reading program grew by nearly 30 percent over last year. The 1,168 children participated in the Adventures in Michigan program, which encouraged learning about the state and included a good number of local authors reading at story times throughout the summer.

"We've never had a summer reading program quite this large before," said Becca Niswonger, hospitality coordinator for the store.

One of the most popular events was the Cars party, where kids could build and decorate "cars" from boxes and sit in them while they watched the movie Cars. Susie Finkbeiner, mother of three summer reading program participants, said, "It tapped into their creativity. They got to make the cars into their own personality by adding bumper stickers!"

New Music Review: Kenneth Henderson

Kenneth Henderson - Everything I Got - CD coverArtist: Kenneth Henderson Album: “Everything I Got”Local worship leader/music artist Kenneth Henderson has some new songs to share in his latest effort, "Everything I Got."

The three-song EP is highlighted by the anthem "Worship 'til Heaven." With its crisp background vocals and instrumental flourishes, it's a masterfully-arranged and performed invitation to praise.

The title song "Everything I Got" begins as a slower ballad, but builds as the lyrics echo the scriptural challenge to give "my life as a living sacrifice."

New Music Review: Ty Gonzalez

GonzArtist: Ty Gonzalez (Gonz) Album: “Big League Dreaming”Baseball references abound in the latest project from West Michigan-based hip-hop/rap artist Ty Gonzalez (Gonz).

"Big League Dreaming" takes listeners on a tour through his youthful goal of sports heroism to his newer pursuit of musically communicating gospel truth.

The title track's music video (online) visually tells the story. Raps such as "Triple Crown" and "No Shame" carry the baseball metaphor. But "Bottom of the Ninth" actually reveals his new passion: "...It's time to rap, ain't nobody stop me....walk and not be faint, like an eagle I soar..."

Fall Concert Line-up Sprinkled with Doves

Jon Foreman of SwitchfootJon Foreman of Switchfoot in his July 31 performance at Frederik Meijer Gardens (photo by Mario Centeno)."We sing these songs because we believe hope deserves an anthem," said Switchfoot lead singer Jon Foreman at the band's recent concert at the Meijer Gardens amphitheatre.

Christian music artists with a similar outlook are preparing their West Michigan concerts for this fall. And many of those artists are coming freshly adorned with 2017 Dove Award nominations.

The 48th annual Dove Awards are sponsored by the Gospel Music Association and are considered one of the top awards for faith-based music artists. Nominees were announced August 9 at a Nashville news conference, with award ceremonies set for Oct. 17.

Evangelicals Must Adopt Christian View of Leisure to Influence Culture, Says Scholar

Acton Institute Speaker Seth Bartee cutline No. 1 Seth Bartee: “One of the ways we can change the culture is taking this concept of leisure seriously.” Seth Bartee is confident Russell Kirk is not a household name for many Protestant evangelicals, which is one reason he believes the United States' Christian moorings in floundering.

Bartee, who teaches intellectual history at East Tennessee State University and is a visiting scholar at The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in Mecosta, Mich., spoke recently at the Acton Institute's Lecture Series, said despite all the good works evangelicals perform in the U.S. and world (international adoptions, volunteering at churches and political activism, for example), they have failed at changing America's predominate culture.

UNITY Poised for a Festive Experience

Powell Mac soloMac Powell, lead singer of Third Day, performs at Unity at 7:10pm Saturday Aug. 12Kevin Newton has part of the Unity Christian Music Festival since year one. And it's been quite a ride.

"We certainly didn't know back in 2001 that it would become not only an annual event, but one of the largest Christian festivals in the U.S.," said Newton, Unity director and part of Alive on the Lakeshore, the umbrella organization sponsoring the four-day event.

The festival draws tens of thousands of fans each year and showcases today's top Christian music artists, as well as offers various other faith-related opportunities.

Educator Tills Education’s Soil With Biblical Botanical Roots

AMDG Architects Speaker Series cutline No. 1David Smith: “The Garden of Eden is an image where society is working, before everything gets destroyed.”David Smith sees a strong bond between the Garden of Eden and education. Apparently, John Amos Comenius also understood the connection, even though he lived centuries before Smith was born.

Smith works the dual role as director of Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning and director of Calvin College's graduate studies in education. He recently spoke at AMDG Architects' July Speaker Series about the relationship between gardens cultivating people's moral, spiritual and virtue through education.

Digging Deeper With Lifehouse

Lifehouse jw 2nd from rLifehouse (l. to r.) Ricky Woolstenhulme Jr., Bryce Soderberg, Jason Wade, Steve Stout Singer-songwriter Jason Wade of the band Lifehouse never dreamed his song "You and Me" would become a wedding standard.

"That's a song I wrote when I proposed to my girlfriend when I was 19 years old," recalled Wade during a conference call from the band's Los Angeles recording studio.

"It didn't show up until our third album six years later."

The melodic song was one of mainstream radio's top hits of 2005 and re-established the band's impact made with its 2001 debut smash, "Hanging By A Moment."

"You and Me" still echoes at nuptials around the country. "We've played it ourselves for at least three weddings," said Wade. "And we've been asked to help guys propose on stage when we play it at shows.

Hudsonville-based International Needs Serves as Jesus’ Hands, Feet Worldwide

International Needs Cutline No. 1 International Needs president/CEO Michael Cooper stands on a rooftop in Nepal last November. Michael T. Cooper gets around.

So far, he's journeyed to 14 or 15 countries since becoming president and CEO last October of Hudsonville-based International Needs.

In the future, the ministry's big tent goals will take him to various nations in the world, including Turkey, Nepal, Burkina Faso in West Africa and Columbia.

That's to be expected when you're head of a multi-prong ministry like International Needs, founded in 1974 by Ray Harrison.

"I love being around folks from around the world," said an enthused Cooper. "We have staff and national workers spread across the globe, where we pray and dream with them in how they're going to reach their countries and fulfill their vision to spread the gospel."

Band Members Testify To New Life

Adams Road Joseph Warren (left) and Adam’s Road Joseph Warren and Adam's Road are on a new mission.

Warren and his fellow band members are all former Mormons. And now they're presenting their musical testimonies of a newly-found gospel salvation message.

"We're just trying to put the gospel to music and to share our stories," said Warren, 32, by phone from a concert stop in rural Vermont.

The ex-members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (better known as Mormons) have carved out their own path as they've embraced Christian orthodoxy and proclaimed it publically. And it has come at some personal cost.

A Mile In Your (old) Shoes

dan seabornLet me tell you, we're talking about a really big "if."

If I think about it long enough and hard enough, I can remember what it was like—what it was like long, long ago—to be a kid.
If.

For starters, the piano practice was torture. I'd be sitting there, plunking out tunes on black and white keys even though I thought my fingers looked much better on the orange of a basketball.

And my mom, the human metronome, would sit beside me on the bench, tapping the end of a pencil against the piano to help me keep rhythm. It drove me crazy.

If it wasn't piano lessons that had me in misery, it was homework—hours of multiplication, history, and grammar keeping me away from the South Carolina skies that were calling my name.

Radio Team Now In New Ministry Pursuits

mcAce McKay (left), and Jeff Veley"Yes... Jeff and I are saying good-bye to you," JQ-99 (WJQK-FM) radio personality Ace McKay told listeners on their June 29 afternoon show.

After two and a half years as on-air teammates, McKay and co-host Jeff Veley both left their duties on the local contemporary Christian outlet at the end of June. Breaking the surprising news proved difficult.

"Don't you make me weepy," Veley warned McKay during their bittersweet announcement which both said was made with "heavy hearts."
"You guys (listeners) are family," Veley added.

CeCe Winans Showcases Long-Awaited Album

winansEver wonder how a music artist with a 30-year performing career chooses songs for a concert tour?

“Some people may be shocked,” advised gospel singer-songwriter CeCe Winans. “But I’m singing every one of the songs from my new album on this tour. I want people to hear all these new songs.”

“Let Them Fall in Love” is the veteran artist’s first all-new collection in nine years. She calls them “songs that everyone can learn something from.” It’s another milestone in a decades-long inspirational-gospel career, which included many years in a successful R&B-gospel duo with her brother BeBe Winans.

Cece, 52, brings her music to DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids on July 13.

Bethlehem Lutheran Opens Intergenerational Center

b1Pastor Jay Schrimpf is Bethlehem Intergenerational Center’s executive director and Susan Davidson is its director.Senior adults and children can significantly benefit from one another, but too often don't get the opportunity to interact. Bethlehem Lutheran Church is helping to bridge the generational gap thanks to its recent opening of the Bethlehem Intergenerational Center (BIC).

The BIC offers combined and enhanced day care for young children and seniors, building on the church's 46 years of experience in child care and education.

Truth, True Truth, Truthiness, and Post-truth in America

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. Rogers American culture is actively forgetting what it used to believe.

That truth is objective and knowable reality – that truth is not defined by gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, partisanship, Left or Right political philosophy, culture, might, I.Q., riches or poverty, beauty or brawn, feelings or preferences, or even religion per se.

In the 1970s, the late Christian philosopher Francis A. Schaeffer coined the intentionally redundant phrase "true truth" to remind the emerging morally relativistic culture that truth is not subjective. It is not something we can pick and choose. Truth is absolute. Truth stands outside all of us.

A generation or two hence, American culture is racing pell-mell toward full-on relativism. Now, no one, no entity, nothing can be trusted because everything is reduced to power and rights, not truth.
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