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  • Psalm 1


  • Relevant Docs: "Cookies"


  • Psalm 23


  • Relevant Docs: "Art"


  • Relevant Docs: "Coffee"


  • Relevant Docs "Legacy"


  • Acting Like a Tourist?


  • Trust


  • What About Change?


  • The Last Presentation


  • Signs


  • He Is


  • Just Thankful?


  • The Longest Christmas Journey


  • Relevant Docs: "Iron"


  • The Soldier Makes a Difference


Featured Articles

GR Dream Center Starts With Request: Can I Be Your Friend?

Dream Center Leah and Greg Molchan co-founded the Grand Rapids Dream Center in August 2014. Greg and Leah Molchan have witnessed the Holy Spirit use some unconventional methods to open a person's heart to Him. Yes, that includes toilet paper.

"There was a woman in her 50s who lived a life of being a crack cocaine addict for 20 some years and was prostituting herself," said Leah. "She prayed for toilet paper that morning and we showed up with toilet paper. I knew her heart was softening and God was telling me to seek her out and I'll rescue her."

The Molchans are co-founders of the Grand Rapids Dream Center (GRDC), a movement-based, mission-focused ministry they launched in August 2014 that mobilizes volunteers to meet people's spiritual and physical needs.

Casting Crowns Unveils the “Next Thing”

casting crownsCasting Crowns features lead singer Mark Hall (center). (Drummer Brian Scoggin is 3rd from left) Brian Scoggin of Casting Crowns said his band's latest album "The Very Next Thing" really comes into the spotlight on their current tour. "We're playing nearly half of the songs from it during the concerts," said the drummer from his home near Macon, Ga.

"That's hard to do when you've got eight records of songs with everybody having their favorites they want to hear."

The million-selling, inspirational-pop band visits Van Andel Arena on March 23 with guest artists Danny Gokey and Unspoken (details below).

The title song "The Very Next Thing" sums up the album's theme: don't wait for the grandiose thing you'd like to do for God someday – just do the very next thing He asks.

Local Christian Bookstores Step Up As Family Christian Closes Doors

bakerBaker Book House Two Christian bookstores, Baker Book House and Kregel Parable Christian Stores, are eager to fill the void left by the impending closing of three local Family Christian Stores locations.

Family Christian announced late last month that it would close its nearly 250 stores around the country, almost two years after filing for bankruptcy. It is unknown when the local stores—on 28th Street, Alpine Avenue and 44th Street—will finally shut their doors.

Kregel Parable and Baker Book House are remaining open.

Profits Earned Respecting Scriptural Principles are Part of God’s Design, Plan

annAnne Rathbone Bradley: “There’s never been more hope that we’re going to eliminate abject poverty.” Anne Rathbone Bradley displayed on a projection screen a photograph of the Russian Federation's first president, Boris Yeltsin, who in 1991 visited a grocery store in Houston. It's clear in the picture he is captivated by the array of popsicles on display for sale.

"He's depressed and overwhelmed by what he sees," said Rathbone Bradley, vice president of economic initiatives for the biblical advocacy think tank, Institute for Faith, Work and Economics (IFWE), based in McLean, Vir. IFWE's mission is to inspire Christians to embrace a biblical understanding of work and economics, exemplified by greater creativity and increased human flourishing.

Local Gospel Quartet Still Searching

faithful Lead singer Jim Visser (2nd from right) and his group are looking for a new tenor singer The classified ad was straightforward it its pitch: "Local gospel group looking to fill position of tenor....currently taking auditions...." read the listing in the local Advance newspaper.

It's a small part of a larger search: The Faithful Journey Quartet has been looking high and low for a new tenor singer for over six months.

"Yes, we've been seeking in many different directions," said Jim Visser, lead singer and manager of the West Michigan-based group. "We've put a message on a (gospel music) magazine posting board, I've placed notices with some of the larger local churches, and other gospel quartets in the area know that we're looking," added Visser, 52.

Good vs. Evil is Theme of Local Author’s Debut Novel

samparkerLocal author Samuel Parker credits three things as genesis of his debut novel "Purgatory Road," released earlier this year by Grand Rapids-based Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

First was a trip he and his wife took to Las Vegas. They rented a car a drove into the desert outside the city. Second, Parker is a fan of Westerns—novels and movies—and dreamed of setting a novel in the west.

Third was a John Donne sonnet titled "Batter my heart, three-person'd God," in which Donne believed that he couldn't change until he was ravished by God.

"The idea of beating the good into someone really got to me," said Parker, who lives in Walker with his wife and twin sons.

Pine Rest Launches Pax Crisis Response

vanderpolPine Rest’s Bob VandePol: “There is no greater honor than to be there for people on the worst day of their lives.”Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services recently launched Pax Crisis Response (PCR), a new service for people who need to know how to recover from the aftershock of a crisis.

"Crisis" carries with it an elastic meaning, said Bob VandePol, Pine Rest's executive director of employee, church and school assistance programs. Whether it's because of violence, suicide, a pastor's ethical failure, tragic death, or a natural disaster, the common element with them all is there's an immediate need for constructive direction.

Ada Bible Church Pastor Pens Third Book

thinkPastor Jeff Manion has learned the virtue faithfulness in life and ministry. He's served at Ada Bible Church for 33 years; he's seen individuals serve year after year after year, exhibiting faithfulness in even the smallest things.

Manion has preached and taught on faithfulness through the years, mostly touching on it as part of other topics. "But people responded to it," he said. "The material touched a nerve, and seems like a topic that has resonated."

His new book "Dream Big, Think Small: Living an Extraordinary Life One Day at a Time," recently released by Zondervan, speaks to faithfulness in everyday life.

Christian Writer’s Group Offers Skill-Building, Encouragement

wordwA Word Weavers writers group at a recent meeting Writing is often a lonely pursuit.

Sitting by a desk or on a couch with a laptop, tablet, or legal pad waiting for inspiration. Perhaps struggling with a string of phrases or sentences. And then wondering what interruption will pop-up next to divert the attention from the task at-hand.

Here's a possible solution: Search out others who share your passion for writing and face similar writing challenges...join a writers' group!
"I believe that every writer needs to be in a group of their peers who understand the writing process," said Kathy Bruins, president of the faith-based Word Weavers of West Michigan. "That's where real feedback will be given with a goal of making their writing better."

John 10:10 Guides The Hope Project’s Battle Against Sex Trafficking

hope1THP’s Julia Koch: “People won’t support a mission or project if they don’t believe the problem exists.” They are lonely, afraid and abused, a modern day version of slavery that operates under a veil of darkness. But there's hope.

The Muskegon-based outreach and education ministry, The Hope Project (THP), 185 W. Laketon Ave., makes possible hope and healing for the women and girls ravaged from sex trafficking, while spreading awareness and prevention within the West Michigan community.

John 10:10 is its guiding principle: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Outcry Returns to West Michigan

Daigle Lauren2 Lauren DaigleThe worship music-based Outcry Tour, the largest "worshipping tour" in Christian music, visits
Resurrection Life Church in Grandville on Mon. April 24.

This year's Outcry line-up is somewhat scaled back from the 2016 version which played in Van Andel
Arena. But the Elevation Worship Band and Jesus Culture are back, along with award-winning singer-
songwriter Lauren Daigle. Pastor-authors Steven Furtick and Levi Lusko are also on the bill.

Daigle, 25, is one of the hottest names in Christian music. The title song from her debut album ("How
Can It Be?) won a 2015 Dove Award as Song of the Year – the same year she won a Dove as top artist.
Last year the album was nominated for a Grammy Award and the Louisiana native won Doves for top
songwriter and artist of the year.

New Paradigm Needed to Make Senior Adults’ Years Their Best, Say Encore Alliance Leaders

tomcEncore Alliance vice president Rev. Tom Couch said senior adults’ problems are not going away any time soon.Older adults face a growing number of trials. The nonprofit ministry, Encore Alliance of Greater Grand Rapids (EAGGR), has an ambitious program intended to make their later years rewarding.

But it requires helping seniors clear some challenging hurdles.

Rising healthcare costs, isolation, obesity, binge drinking and an increasing rate of sexually transmitted diseases are a handful of issues that promise to tarnish senior adults' golden years, according to a EAGGR-sponsored seminar that was attended by 45 community leaders at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corp Community Center.

Painter Tom VanDerKolk operates business with integrity

vdk Tom VanDerKolk: “The biggest key is putting others first.”Tom VanDerKolk is no stranger to humble beginnings. Nearly 26 years ago, the energetic VanDerKolk grabbed a bucket, brush and a four-foot stepladder and painted a home in Wyoming for $400.

Fast forward to today: VanDerKolk is president of Grand Rapids-based VanDerKolk Painting Inc., an industrial, commercial and residential operation that has a staff of 30 employees. Twenty-four of them are painters, rounded out with estimators, an office manager, and a field supervisor and shop manager. Sales this year is projected at $4 million.

Part of the revenue outlook is because VanDerKolk recently acquired Kooi Industrial Painting, a Grand Rapids industrial sand blasting and painting services company founded in 1927, whose notable projects include the Calder in downtown Grand Rapids, the Sixth Street Bridge, and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

Bridge Street Mission School Strengthens, Deepens Faith

BSHOP Mission School cutline No. 1Ryan Waalkes is Bridge Street House of Prayer’s director.Bridge Street House of Prayer's Mission School is not intended for young people who prefer to chill in a coffee shop with their friends or check out the latest Facebook posts. It's deeper and more satisfying than all of that.

Rather, BSHP's Mission School is an eight-month discipleship program that immerses students ages 18 to 29 people into a life of mission. They learn what it truly means to hunger for Jesus, affirms BSHP director Ryan Waalkes.

Concerts Taking Shape in 2017

429 Building 429 performs Jan. 28 in ZeelandOnce again West Michigan's Christian concert scene began January with a winter blast – a Winter Jam blast, that is. The annual 10-band concert tour hit Van Andel Arena on Jan. 8 headlined by David Crowder.

The tour also marked the Van Andel debut of young faith-based rapper Steven Malcolm, a Wyoming Park H.S. grad whose new album debuts Feb. 17. (see previous article)
 
Let's check the post-Winter Jam list and see what's ahead.

Faith-based Blues Gym Mentors Kids through Kickboxing, Living out God’s Word

dino1 (left to right): Artist Paul Collins and Dino Newville are the Blues Gym co-founders.Step inside the Blues Gym at 4248 Kalamazoo Ave. SE in Kentwood, and you’ll immediately see equipment associated with a physical fitness: a boxing ring, punching bags and gymnastic mats. But its co-founders, Dean “Dino” Newville and Paul Collins, see something beyond a room dedicated to training kids boxing, kickboxing and martial arts.

They see a place where at-risk youth learn from nonjudgmental instructors a better route to take that doesn’t involve drugs, where they learn morals and respect for police officers and themselves and realize the Word of God through deeds and actions.

New Service to Connect Churches, Worship Players

acesion An Ascension Worship audition at Santos Guitar USAA network to help area churches fill temporary openings for worship players is on the way to West Michigan.

Ascension Worship is an international organization with individual networks in more than a dozen U.S. cities. Now it's coming to Grand Rapids and already local worship artists are getting involved.

"We've been holding auditions every Tuesday and Thursday," said local Ascension network manager Ace McKay. "We're trying to get as many completed as we can, so we can start making (the artists) available to churches that need them." Instrumentalists, vocalists – even sound technicians – have all stepped up to be part of the emerging network.

SOWERS Plants Retirees Where Help is Needed; ‘Anyone Interested Should Look into it’

SOWERS 1Retired and still making a difference, left to right: Jim and Marilyn Proudfit and Marilyn and Sidney Postma.Before he retired in 2010 from Dermody Trucking's maintenance department, Caledonia resident Sidney Postma faced a sobering decision. Should he relax and while away his time or do something to make a difference in others' lives?

"If you just retire and sit home and rot, that's what would happen, Postma said of the post-work choice he did not go with.

Instead, Postma said he made the right decision — on behalf of the Lord and His people as a volunteer member of an interdenominational ministry that enlists the help of couples who travel the nation to work on a plethora of projects for Christian ministries.

And "Christian ministries" is an expansive term. It includes churches, conference centers, campgrounds, orphanages, schools, missionary retreats and training facilities, homes for abused children and recovery homes for adults.

New Music Review: Orlando Rodriguez

orlandoOrlando "Substance" Rodriguez has officially gone nationwide with his latest release.

The Grand Rapids-based singer-songwriter has been working these songs for the past several years. But "Turn the World Off" made its USA chart debut several months ago, when his song "You're There" reached Billboard Magazine's list of "most added gospel singles."

Navigating between urban and Christian contemporary sounds, Rodriguez features numerous ballads and several up-tempo tunes on this collection. "Living Blessed" boasts tight harmonies with an urban beat and dashes of hip-hop assisted by his label mate Watchmane.

The Whole Sex Talk is New Ally for Tongue-tied Parents, Churches

twst3Tongue-tied parents and church leaders who are ill-at-ease discussing sex and abstinence with children and teens have a new, biblical-based ally designed to help them to communicate God’s best for physical intimacy, love and relationships while reducing the number of abortions performed.

The Pregnancy Resource Center of Grand Rapids, 415 Cherry St. SE, recently launched The Whole Sex Talk: Dangerous. Beautiful. Gift., a six-session program (recommended length of time for each of the six sessions is one hour) that shepherds parents and churches in how to have ongoing conversations with kids about sex and its consequences before marriage and why it's God's best to wait until matrimony.

New Christmas Book Will Delight Children and Parents

Author PhotoGlenys NellistGlenys Nellist lives in Rockford, but a book published in her native England is the inspiration for her Love Letters from God series of books for children.

When her four sons were young, they loved the book "The Jolly Postman, or Other People's Letters" by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. The story has a postman delivering letters to fairy tale characters, with children able to open the envelope on each page and pull out the letter addressed to their favorite characters.

Nellist brought the book with her to the United States when she and her husband David moved here several decades ago, and it became the inspiration for her own children's books. Her first book, "Love Letters from God: Bible Stories" came out with Zonderkidz in 2014, complete with lift-the-flap letters from God written for young readers.

"I love to write, so when I decided to write a storybook Bible I needed it to be unique because there are so many out there," said Nellist. "God whispered, 'Remember those little letters? Write letters after the Bible stories as if they're from me.'"

Kingsbury Offers 24th Book in Baxter Family Series Just in Time for Christmas

COVERBestselling author Karen Kingsbury has written many books, 24 of which are part of the Baxter Family collection. Her most recent is "The Baxter Family Christmas," released just in time for this holiday season.

The book is first in a new collection featuring the Baxter family. The second, "Love Story," comes out in June 2017 and a third next fall. "The Baxter Family Christmas" has John Baxter eager to bring his family together on Christmas Eve. He also wants to invite the young woman who received daughter Erin's heart after her untimely death.

Some of his family are happy to meet her, but some want nothing to do with this stranger who reminds them of their deep loss.

"I try to create people who are real and readers can relate to," said Kingsbury. "Readers see themselves or a family member in these characters."

Donut Shop’s Closing Highlights Need for Mel Trotter to Come Alongside Least of These with Wide-Ranging Services, Programs

Dennis VanKampen No. 1 Mel Trotter Ministries CEO Dennis Van Kampen: “My greatest satisfaction with working at Mel Trotter Ministries is seeing someone live the life they were meant to live.”When small businesses close their doors, it seldom generates a blip on news organizations’ radar. That wasn’t the case when Propaganda Doughnuts decided earlier this year to shutter its business, stirring a divisive buzz about the public’s view of the homeless — and what can be done to help them.

Formerly located at 117 S. Division Avenue, Propaganda Doughnuts’ owner and landlord said the reasons they closed the donut shop was because customers often complained of panhandlers begging for money, public urination, sleeping in doorways and on sidewalks.

Propaganda Doughnuts was based in the Heartside district, an area in downtown Grand Rapids that’s bounded approximately by Fulton and Wealthy streets and Grandville and Lafayette avenues.

“Old Time Radio Variety Hour”

strongtowerStrong Tower Radio QuartetA throwback to the sounds of yesteryear is helping introduce West Michigan to a new Christian
radio outlet.

The "Old Time Radio Variety Hour" is a Christmas program performed to a live audience on Sat.
Dec. 10 at Wyoming Seventh Day Adventist Church on 44th St SW .

The production is courtesy of Strong Tower Radio affiliate WNHG-FM (89.7) which signed on
locally last summer as part of the Strong Tower network. The event offers a peek behind the
curtain of the medium's "golden era."

MercyMe, GR Symphony, Combine for Holiday Concert

MercyMe ChirstmasMercyMe – (l. to r.) Nathan Cochran, Mike Scheuchzer, Bart Millard, Robby Shaffer, Barry GraulMercyMe guitarist Barry Graul says playing alongside a symphony orchestra is heavenly.

"Having that musical atmosphere in and around everything the band is doing...it's just icing on the cake," said the artist from his home near Nashville, Tenn.
"Those musicians are all such great players – and way more professional than we've ever been," he laughed.

The award-winning, inspirational pop band joins the Grand Rapids Symphony for a Nov. 29 concert at Resurrection Life Church in Grandville. Also featured is the Res Life Church Choir. The band has its own Christmas concert the following night in Kalamazoo (details below).

After the first portion of the evening during which MercyMe performs several of its Christian radio hits (including the seminal "I Can Only Imagine"), the band is joined by the symphony for holiday music drawn largely from last year's album, "Mercy Me, It's Christmas."

Former Planned Parenthood director affirms, ‘My goal is to make abortion unthinkable’


PRC 2016 Gala Cutline No. 1Abby Johnson: “We don’t spend enough time on our knees in prayer for the conversion of the heart.”When it comes to revealing Planned Parenthood Federation of America's tactics to nudge women to abort their babies, Abby Johnson pulls no punches.

Johnson admits there was a time she was a staunch supporter of the nonprofit organization known for providing women and men reproductive health services, which in its view must include abortion.

She previously believed in protecting and expanding its reproductive health services, a euphemism tied to, but not limited to, abortion.

But no more.

Local Author Pens Book for Children

scrappyAbby Van Wormer loves kids and love cats, so it made perfect sense for her to write a
book for children that features a big orange cat.

"Scrappy's Search" stars Scrappy, a charming cat who is helped by lots of folks in the
neighborhood but who longs for a real family and forever home.

"The story was inspired by a cat that came to our family when we lived in Oregon,"
said Van Wormer. "We were moving to a new house and the cat just ran into the
house. We kept putting him out but he wouldn't take no for an answer. The family
adopted Garfield, as he came to be called."

Christmas Music Heralds The Holiday

Troccoli Kathy winterThe Christmas holiday is fast approaching, which means that Christmas concerts are even closer.
Music of the holidays – already on the radio and in retail stores - comes to West Michigan stages
right after Thanksgiving.

Church pageants and Christmas musicals abound – but note that Calvary Church's "Festival of
Lights" is in year two of its hiatus due to the church's construction project. The East Beltline NE
church is expected to resume the series next year.

This round-up concentrates on the larger scale events and concerts from out-of-town artists. The
list:

Facebook Video Streaming Increases Outreach to Native Americans Beyond Church’s Four Walls

4Fires Video Streaming Cutline No. 1Thanks to video streaming on Mike Peters’ Facebook page, many more are hearing about Jesus’ Good News.Editor's note: West Michigan Christian News continues its occasional series that updates the ministries and people previously featured, this time with 4Fires Ministry.

On Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EST, an average of 15 people arrive at Northland United Methodist Church, 1157 Northlawn St. NE in Grand Rapids, to worship the Lord in a Native American contextual ministry known as 4Fires. About 20 minutes later, people from across the nation and around the world join them without walking into the church.

The reason the number of people hearing the Bible study mushrooms is because of live video streaming Facebook makes possible. But it gets better.

Another 200 to 300 will hear Mike Peters' sermons after they're posted on his Facebook page, which can be found online.  People must first "friend" request Peters in order to watch his online messages.

Local Author Offers New Way to Organize Prayer Life

Pray A to Z CoverAmelia Rhodes admits to offering up quick prayers for those in need, but forgetting to pray long-term for those needs. Her prayer life was more haphazard than helpful so she figured out a way to get more organized.

Rhodes began a blog series offering an organized list of things to pray for and downloadable cards for readers to print and create their own lists. Readers asked for sturdier cards, so Rhodes and her husband began developing a stand and card pack in September 2015. By March 2015, the Pray A to Z card pack/stand were available for purchase.

Now that initial idea has expanded even more thanks to her new book "Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community," to be released Tuesday, Nov. 15, by Worthy Inspired ($14.99).

"My hope is that readers will become more engaged and excited about their prayer lives," said Rhodes. "I hope the book will be a starting point, that readers will get excited about their relationships with God and go deeper and farther."

"Pray A to Z" offers five topics per letter; three are prayers of petition and two are prayers of praise. For example, the letter A has readers praying for Adoption, Abuse and Alcoholism, and offering praise for Abundance and Almighty.

The letter C offers prayers for Cancer, Court Cases and Caregivers, and praises God as Creator and Comforter.

Local Artist Ready to “Jam” on National Tour

Malcolm Steve pointing 1000 Steven MalcolmSteven Malcolm is heralding January 8, 2017 as a dream come true.

Amidst the hoopla with the late October announcement of the gigantic Christian music Winter Jam tour, area fans may have missed the addition of a local artist to the bill.

"I will be performing at the Van Andel Arena in my hometown," gushed Malcolm, a Grand Rapids-based music artist, to his 11,000-plus Facebook followers.
The 25 year-old hip-hop artist is officially part of Winter Jam, a cavalcade of Christian music artists which travels to 46 cities from January to April playing in major arenas. Along with top-selling artists such as David Crowder, Britt Nicole and Tenth Avenue North, Malcolm is part of the "pre-jam" opening act roster for the January 8 event, which has an admission price of $10 at-the-door.

His slot on the prestigious tour comes in tandem with his recent signing to a national record label – "4 AGAINST 5" (in Roman numerals, "IVAV"), a hip-hop imprint of industry giant Word Records.

His self-titled national debut releases early next year. The first single - "Hot Boy," with a beat which bounces off a keyboard riff - is already available, listen to the lyric video online.

"I use the phrase 'hot boy' to say I have a burning passion to glorify God in everything I do," he said. "God has given me the gift of music and I want to be on fire with it."

The Conquerors Demonstrate How to be Strong in the Lord

The Conquerors cutline No. 1000 Mike “Brickhouse” Benson starts to give a steel rod a new shape.Mike "Brickhouse" Benson grabs hold of a steel rod and does something with it he calls the Tylenol Bend. The feat gets its name because it's a sure-fire way to trigger a headache.

Wrapping a cloth around the rod's center, Benson places it on his head and with the sheer strength of his massive biceps, bends it into a U shape.

Applause and shrieks of amazement arise in the cafeteria at Discovery Elementary School in Kentwood where around 400 kindergarten to 5th graders are gathered to witness feats of strength at a recent motivational assembly that's fronted by Benson's Grandville-based the Conquerors International Strength Team.

Other strength demonstrations included Yago "Batman" Williams successfully snapping a baseball bat in two and blowing into a hot water bottle to the point of it bursting. Benson bent a 12-inch frying pan into the shape of a burrito while giving a horseshoe an entirely different look.

Hacksaw Ridge: A movie about a Christian man called a coward that saved 75 American lives

poster02Directed by Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge is a faith-based movie that tells the true story of Desmond T. Doss, a medic in World War 11 and, because of his Christian faith, Doss fought as a conscientious objector. Tagged a "coward" and constantly prodded by military commanders to "go home", Desmond hung tough and stayed, going on to save 75 lives. He found the injured men following the battle at Hacksaw Ridge, and lowered them to safety by rope, facing great danger every time. He kept praying each moment after saving one, "Lord, just give me one more," and then he prayed this way again and again, until he had saved the 75.

Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist, and his conscience was guided by a framed poster of the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, one his father had purchased where Doss grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia. An image on the poster of Cain holding a club above his dead slain brother, Abel, is an image Doss never forgot. He asked himself how a brother could do that to his sibling.

According to the book, Hero of Hacksaw Ridge, written by Booton Herndon, the men of the 77th infantry told him, "When we go into combat, Doss, you're not comin' back alive. I'm gonna shoot you myself!" They added, "You're nothing but a coward!" But Doss stuck to his firm belief that his mission was not to kill, but to heal. His fellow soldiers changed their minds after being rescued by him and seeing how he put himself at great personal risk.

The Garden St. Francis Inspired

Mic Carlson Cutline 1235 Sculptor Mic Carlson stands near one of his sculptures depicting St. Francis preaching at Assisi, Italy’s Temple Minerva.Surrounded by towering trees at the Dominican Center at Marywood, 2025 E. Fulton St., is an urban haven of undeveloped land that invites visitors to till the soil of inner peace and learn about a man's steadfast devotion to Christ.

The 11-acres of terra firma is called the St. Francis of Assisi Sculpture Garden that first started taking tangible form in 2009. Work continues today to make the pathway into a continuous loop as funds become available.

For King & Country: Light Shines on Message

Luke l and Joel Smallbone at Dove AwardsLuke and Joel Smallbone of For King & Country at the 2016 Dove AwardsIt's a movement that includes a book, feature film, song and now a concert tour.

"Priceless" contains a message for justice presented on multiple platforms by singer-songwriters Joel and Luke Smallbone and their band For King & Country.

"When we began traveling as a band several years ago we started to share (about the tragedy of human trafficking) and were amazed at the response," said Joel Smallbone, 32, from an office in Nashville, Tenn.

"We knew there was a bigger story to be told," he said of its emphasis on God-given human worth.

Their "Priceless" concert tour stops in Muskegon on Nov. 4.

The theme is woven through their song "Priceless," which topped Christian radio charts last summer, and the August release of a book of the same title (Worthy Publishing).

Band Embraces “Opening Act” Status

Hawk Nelson235 Dan Biro, (left) and his band Hawk NelsonThe Christian pop-rock band Hawk Nelson doesn't mind serving as an opening act for the better-known Tenth Avenue North.

"We actually love supporting other artists," said bass guitarist Dan Biro from his Peterborough, Ont. home. "There's just more strength when you're together."

The tour comes to Community Reformed Church in Zeeland on Oct. 27.

Hawk Nelson (named after a superhero character) had already been around for several years before its 2004 national debut. Beginning with a pop-punk sound, it has transitioned into more conventional pop-rock. Even with fair success in Christian radio, the band has long had a role in multi-artist tours and performed for hundreds of thousands of fans.

Novelist Lynn Austin Talks About Her Newest Novel

LynnAustin235Lynn Austin Popular novelist Lynn Austin moved from the Chicago area two years ago, and naturally set her next novel in her new home. Early Holland, Mich., is the setting for Waves of Mercy, which came out the first week of October.

Austin is author of a dozen standalone novels, three series (Refiner's Fire, Chronicles of the King, The Restoration Chronicles) and one nonfiction book, Pilgrimage.

Austin, who had book signings in Grand Rapids and Holland, answers questions about Waves of Mercy, her life, and her writing.

Q: What inspired you to write Waves of Mercy and set it in Holland?
A: My husband grew up in Holland, so when we decided to move back there two years ago, I began researching Holland's history to see if it would make a good novel. Also, I grew up in the area of New York State that was originally owned and settled by the Dutch, and I visited Holland for the first time when I attended Hope College. I was immediately impressed by how proud the community was of their faith and Dutch heritage.

New Book Encourages Women to Slow Down; Be Real With Their Health, Lives

Kathy Fannon 1235 Author Kathy Fannon is a holistic health coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.Slow down, make memories with friends and family, drink more water, set up a budget, get your nose out of your iPhones and iPads and be more active.

And by all means, take the time to enjoy your food.

It's sage advice amid a circus of deadlines and demands that can go a long way in enabling women to enjoy life more — but only when they're real about their feelings, struggles and perceived failures, said Jenison resident Kathy Fannon.

Sandi Patty Reminisces on “Farewell Tour”

SP 1000She's won Grammy Awards, performed on national television and sold 12 million albums.
But before the spotlight and media came calling, singer Sandi Patty spent plenty of time in West Michigan.

"Grand Rapids was the home of my very first record company," recalled Patty during a phone interview from her Oklahoma City home. "I met some of the most incredible musicians there."

Her first national record album was "Sandi's Song," released in 1979. It was produced by Phil Brower for the former Singspiration label owned by then Grand Rapids-based Zondervan. It's also where she met arranger-composer David Clydesdale, with whom she has worked throughout her career.
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