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Featured Articles

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.

Degage Ministries ‘excited’ to Launch $6 Million Project

Degage New Building Cutline No. 1An exterior rendering of Degage’s construction project.More space to shelter distraught women. A larger dining room. A surgical recuperating area. And a new kitchen to bake more of those hard-to-resist Pauls' Mom's Cookies.

Degage Ministries is moving forward with plans to expand services to the area's homeless and low-income families, made possible by a $6 million construction project.

"We feel strongly that God is calling us to this bigger role and now is the time," said Marge Palmerlee, Degage's executive director. "We need to be able to address those immediate needs and not have people sleeping in their cars, on the street and under bridges. We're excited to be able to address those needs that have been identified in our community that is vital for health and welfare."

Construction will start in the spring and take about a year to complete. The goal is to keep serving people during construction, Palmerlee said.

"The plan is to not have to shut down," she said.

More to “The Breakup Song” Than Meets The Ear

Battistelli Francesca - Main Press ImageFrancesca Battistelli performs March 24 in Holland Singer-songwriter Francesca Battistelli wondered how listeners would react to "The Breakup Song."

"I loved that it caused them to think...where is she going with this?" she said of the anthem on her latest album.

No, it's not the story of a past relationship or any kind of romantic entanglement. Instead, it's a musical statement rejecting fear and its undue influence in a determined believer's life.

The song's music video  with more than 10 million views, depicts a phone call in which the artist tells fear that "you don't own me" and "the no vacancy sign on my heart is lit up."

The New York native showcases the song on her tour which comes to Holland, Mich. on March 24.

“Church Basement Ladies” Return For More

Rise Up O men - threesomePastor Gunderson (center) deals with both Carl and Mavis in “Church Basement Ladies: Rise Up, O Men” Attention church basement ladies everywhere. The men are about to engulf your territory!

That's the humorous premise of "Rise Up, O Men," the sixth installment of the popular stage musical-comedy series "Church Basement Ladies."

"The roosters have invaded the henhouse," smiled executive producer Curt Wollan from a stop in Palm Springs, CA.

The production comes to Byron Center's Van Singel Fine Arts Center on March 26.

The setting is familiar to long time fans: East Cornucopia Lutheran Church in rural Minnesota back in the 1950s and 60s when church basement kitchens were a social hub with their own pecking order.

Starlight Ministries Helps Transition Grieving People on the Road to Healing

Starlight No. 1From left: Gwen Kapcia, director of program development and a certified thanatologist and executive director Bev Thiel say the goal for Starlight Ministries is to serve as a path through people’s pain so they can see God working in their lives.Greg and Jolynn VanWienen's 10-year-old son Seth was killed in November 2007 when a car struck him while he was crossing a road.

It was the death of their son that birthed in 2009 the Hudsonville-based Starlight Ministries, a Christ-centered peer-to-peer support nonprofit that meets people where they are in their pain without judgement. Starlight also has an outreach in the Muskegon area. Meetings are held at area churches in both locales.

Starlight initially started as a balm solely for grieving kids, but its focus soon expanded to other ages, said Bev Thiel, Starlight's executive director.

"It started for just kids but within a few short weeks the parents were all waiting in the other room supporting each other while the kids were in group so they added the adult group right away," said Thiel.

Artist Dealing With Life Elements

Toby Mac fedora and Tshirt"Evidently we just can't get enough of Grand Rapids," said singer-songwriter TobyMac, on the phone from near his home in Franklin, TN.

He's returning to West Michigan March 10 with his "Hits Deep" tour at Van Andel Arena (details below). That's barely a year after performing there to a sold-out crowd. Plus his visit last September during the Luis/Andres Palau CityFest. "We love us some Grand Rapids," Toby grinned.

But this time he's coming with a new album, "The Elements," released last fall. His previous project, "This Is Not A Test," came in 2015.

Terry's Picks for March 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 March:

PRC’s Cradles of Grace Nurtures Sense of Community for Single Moms

Cradles of Grace Cutline No. 1In the foreground stands Marissa Gonzales, Pregnancy Resource Center’s support manager and behind her, Beverly Zahl, PRC’s client services director. The women affirm Cradles of Grace is a bridge for single mothers to find the strength of community. They have chosen life instead of abortion, yet for many pregnant women and single moms the question that still looms over them is: what now? The Pregnancy Resource Center's Cradles of Grace (COG) has some answers.

Meeting weekly at different times and locations in the Grand Rapids area, COG affords pregnant woman and single mothers an opportunity to realize the strength that comes with being a member of a community of like-minded people.

Gatherings start with sharing a provided meal while their children are taken care of, followed by Bible studies, goal-setting strategies, and encouragement for healthy life choices.

Forgiveness, Like No Other Power On Earth

forgiveYour son steals the family car and eventually calls three weeks later from three states away. Your spouse has been unfaithful. Your pastor absconds with several thousand dollars of your church's funds. You are the focus of a slanderous attack that undermines your reputation. Your business partner finds some way to cheat you, legally, and walks away with your investment. Your father or mother have been gone for two decades, but you're still haunted by the memory of how one or both wronged you.

The "normal" response pattern to any and all of these circumstances might include disbelief, hurt, anger, bitterness, and maybe vengeance. Some people might even argue that such emotions are justifiable and understandable.

People expect a certain amount of "righteous anger." It's a part of our American code of individualistic ethics. Kill or be killed. Hallowed self-defense. John Wayne rides again.

Comedian Returns to His GR Hometown

Michael Jr. 2019For comedian Michael Jr., it's all about coming home.

"I get to come to my hometown – my brother and sisters are all around the area and it's gonna be great," said the Grand Rapids native from his home near Dallas, TX.

Michael brings his "In The Moment" comedy tour to Grand Rapids First Church on Sunday March 3 (details below).

It's right here in West Michigan where the Ottawa Hills H.S. grad honed his comedy chops – his second ever "club" date was in the old Comedy Den in Cascade Township.

The Mixed Blessing of Multiple Versions of the Bible

bibleMultiple versions of the Bible are now a part of the landscape. Perhaps we're used to it, and perhaps not? In any event, it was not always so, and I'm not sure we've yet figured out how to navigate this ever-changing terrain.

I was raised in a Christian home—in the best sense of that phrase. I was regularly taken to church before I was born, and much more after that, so thanks to my parents I've been attending Bible-believing churches for over sixty years. This doesn't make me an expert on all things ecclesiastical, and certainly does not mean I always choose well and wisely. Far from it. But maybe like some of you it makes me "experienced," and thus reasonably adept at detecting changes over time.

Honor Brings More Opportunities for West Michigan Resident

Sapp Henry 2019Henry Sapp has begun yet another journey. This month the Kentwood resident was named a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network fellow. And in March he embarks on an 18-month program of instruction, mentoring and practical experience in the foundation's efforts to create transformational change toward a more equitable society.

"This is an opportunity for some intense training and skill-building, said Sapp, 48, of the fellowship honor.

After some initial inquiries Sapp decided to apply for the program, which was in line with his current involvement with area non-profits – including the Better, Wiser, Stronger boys' mentoring organization.

Sapp was selected as one of 80 candidates from across the country, to help spur the foundation's goal of advancing racial equity and racial healing and creating sustainable solutions.

Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) partners with the Kellogg foundation. CCL President John Ryan was impressed with the high caliber of new fellows.

Local Author Offers Thriller Set in the Future

travisTravis Thrasher has written everything from children's books to suspense novels to cowriting with big stars; he's lived all over the United States as well as Munich and Australia. And now he's settled in West Michigan and written a novel set in the near-time future that pits Big Tech against the forces of God.

"My editor at WaterBrook sent an email to me and other authors asking for proposals for novels dealing with the persecuted church," said Thrasher, who lives with his family in the Grandville area. "I had tons of ideas; this one grew into something organic. It's a standalone, but there are storylines not tied up so there could be other novels."

Thrasher will talk about and sign copies of "American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith" at 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 21, at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids.

Christian Healthcare Centers Fosters Biblical Approach to Medicine

Christian Health Centers Cutline No. 1Christian Healthcare Centers president and CEO Mark Blocher: “It just struck me that the direction of our culture, the direction of our politics, and what was happening to medicine, was becoming increasingly secularized and frankly paganized.” Mark Blocher, president and CEO of Christian Healthcare Centers (CHC), remembers the feedback he received from people when he kicked around the idea of launching an insurance-free Christian primary care practice.

They thought it was encouraging that a Christian-based healthcare practice would operate without co-pays and deductibles, but instead, a monthly fee akin to paying a gym membership.

But, they added, could it really be done?

"People told us you couldn't do this," Blocher said in a recent interview at CHC, 3322 Beltline Ct. NE, in Grand Rapids. '"You guys are nuts. There's no way that you're going to do this.'"

Now they know better, said Blocher. CHC opened for patients in July 2017.

To understand what makes CHC unlike other primary care centers – both Christian and otherwise – stems in part from Blocher's concerns about the history and current condition of the U.S. healthcare system he says is both secular and pagan. This trend reaches back to when former President Bill Clinton charged his wife, Hillary, to launch in 1993 a Task Force on National Health Care Reform, referred to pejoratively as "Hillarycare."

Asking for Your Opinion

God Is More Idea1We believe the internet is a gift for such a time as this.

Manna Media is working hard to create a series of short videos with a more evangelistic message. Along with that, we are about to launch a pilot digital media campaign combined with a bot strategy. Our goal is to engage with God seekers online by asking engaging questions beginning with phrase What If God Is ______?

God Is More Idea2We have created a web page to send God seekers, and those that really don't know they are seeking God, to a site where they will find a greeting, a gospel presentation(s) as well as a resource page. We are planning media campaigns In our media campaigns where we will target different audiences and will send them to different landing pages geared to individual interests, all within a given location. On the webpage, we will have a list of churches within that target area.

Christian Concert/Arts Events on the Way

Battistelli F  red largerFrancesca Battistelli performs March 24 in Holland West Michigan entered February after a cold and snowy end of January. What more motivation do we need to look ahead to a Christian concert/arts schedule that is definitely warming up?

February has a couple of already sold-out shows – Drew & Ellie Holcomb Feb 11 and NeedToBreathe's acoustic show Feb. 23. But there's more to fill up the calendar.

First let's hit the big stage at Van Andel Arena:

Terry’s Picks: February 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 February:

Volunteers for Bed-making Nonprofit, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Serve as Jesus’ Hands and Feet

shp From left: Sid Sinnema, Sue Thompson and Aurene Sinnema display the SHP brand and a small version of a bunk bed Sid built. When it's time to call it a day, Jim and Sue Thompson do what many take for granted: They sleep in a bed.

But as Sue discovered early last year, not every child has a bed of their own to sleep in, a fact that motivated her into action when she became the Cedar Springs chapter president for the Twin Falls, Idaho-based, Sleep In Heavenly Peace (SHP).

With 115 chapters in 39 states, the nonprofit rallies volunteers like Jim and Sue to hand-make bunk beds for children ages 3 to 17 who have one of their own. Requests for beds are made through SHP's website, shpbeds.org.

Worship-Music and Culture: A Delicate Intersection

Dr. Monique IngallsDr. Monique Ingalls following a panel discussion at the Calvin Symposium on Worship A major challenge for Christian worship leaders in a shrinking world is to allow room for other cultures and styles in their music and liturgies.

That was one of several points made at a "Worship and Culture" seminar during the recent Calvin Symposium on Worship, Jan. 24-26 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

One of the panelists at the session was Dr. Monique Ingalls, assistant professor of Church Music at Baylor University in Waco, Tex.

"I study evangelical worship music in North America that has – for better or worse – become globalized," she told an audience in the Prince Conference Center. "We have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters around the world."

The annual conference includes artists, musicians, pastors, academics, students and worship leaders/pastors from around the world for a time of learning, encouragement and worship.

Steven Malcolm: The Next Step in Artistry and Ministry

Malcolm StevenSteven Malcolm sat on the edge of his comfortable chair in a downtown Grand Rapids coffee shop.

"The past few years have brought a massive amount of transformation in my life," said the faith-based, hip-hop/rap artist. "And through it all I've been able to not only hear - but also experience - what God's been telling me.... transformation I've needed to grow as a Christian."

January Series Speaker: How Churches can be Portraits of Belonging for People with Disabilities

calvin1“If you think about it as a journey, I don’t think we’ve yet arrived at our destination.” Progress to integrate people with intellectual and physical disabilities has incrementally been reached through the years. But the same can't be said for the 335,000 churches in the United States, according to Erik W. Cater, a Cornelius Vanderbilt professor of special education at Vanderbilt University.

While society has largely moved forward from outright exclusion to mainstream integration, congregations that profess Christ's love for all can use a few pointers on what inclusion looks like in the light of the gospel, Carter said Jan. 17 during Calvin College's annual January Series.

Jamming on the Solo Side of (the) Ledger

Ledger JenJen Ledger Singer Jen Ledger is best known as the singing drummer of the hard rock band Skillet.

But now she’s stepping out in front of the stage serving as lead vocalist for her own band on its first ever tour.

Ledger and numerous other Christian music artists come to Grand Rapids Jan. 18 for the Winter Jam Tour at Van Andel Arena
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“This is the first tour I won’t be on the bus with Skillet,” remarked Ledger, 29, by phone from her home in Kenosha, WI.

Ledger (also the name of her band), released a six-song collecting of new music last year. On the Winter Jam tour she’ll be performing several of them – including her No. 1 Christian rock hit “Not Dead Yet.” The lyrics reveal a personal challenge for the artist.

Nearly 8 Years Later, What’s Happened Since the Historical Joint Synod Between RCA and CRC?

joel boot squareRev. Joel Boot: “It is my hope and prayer that it does continue to grow.” Nearly eight years ago, the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) denominations held a historic joint synod at Calvin College.

June 2011 was the first time delegates from the two synods assembled to chart new evangelistic waters since the two denominations split in 1857.

Among the agreements reached were symbolically adopting a resolution their respective synods approved earlier of a more gender-inclusive translation of three Reformed confessions.

Another was on a larger scale that the late Amway co-founder Richard DeVos helped to engender: Launched was a joint church planting project in four "test areas" in the nation, including West Michigan, dubbed Kingdom Enterprise Zones.

Don’t Lose It, Diffuse It!

dan seabornI remember one night when my wife and I were driving and she shared with me something that was going on at the time with our teenage daughter. As I listened to the story, I could feel my blood pressure, which had just been checked during my annual physical, shoot through the roof. I could hear my heartbeat echoing in my head, and I could feel it pulsating in my neck.

I walked in the house with my fuse lit. I proceeded to make my way to the place where I thought I would find my daughter. Upon seeing her, I immediately starting sharing my thoughts and concerns about this incident, speaking to her in a volume that was way too high, with my words coming so quickly there was barely time to take a breath.

Debut Novel has Readers Considering Race, History

We Hope for Better Things-Book CoverErin Bartels didn't start out writing a novel that focused on race and generations of women who faced down the expectations of their times. She thought her story would based on an old woman who gets a box of photos taken during World War II.

"I'm not sure where, when, or why it changed. But the story got bigger and bigger, more and more complex and needing more research," said Bartels, who lives in Lansing and is Trade Catalog Manager and copywriter for Baker Publishing Group.

Now "We Hope for Better Things" is a time-slip novel that moves between three time periods: 1861 Lapeer County, 1963 Detroit, and current-day Detroit. All the story lines are linked to one farmhouse in Lapeer County north of Detroit.

Terry's Picks for January 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 January:

Frontline Apologetics Open-air Preacher Proclaims Gospel to the Glory of God

Frontline Cutline No. 1 Stephen Nylen: "(Open air preaching) appealing to God to save His people and an appeal to all people to turn back to their God.” Stephen Nylen is a talker.

He can shoot the breeze with the best of them, whether it's chatting about his wife of six years, Jessica, their three daughters, the pink sock tucked in his Bible he uses as a bookmark, or the dual need for Christ and coffee represented in John Waller's song, "Awakening." (I need Jesus and a little caffeine.")

When Nylen laughs, it is easy and genuine.

Then there's another facet to this Michigan Army National Guard veteran who served as a 19D Calvary Scout in Iraq from 2007-2009, in what is known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, or simply, the Iraq War.

'Twas the night

dan seabornIt's that time of year again. The period when we take a moment and reflect on the awesome Christmas story that many people first remember hearing as little children. I thought it would be good for us to take a moment and go back to that childhood and contemplate this beloved writing.

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring..." Wait, wait, wait. See, that's what most people think of when they remember the Christmas story. But that's not the authentic account of Christmas.

I hope that as you take a moment to ponder your life this Christmas season, you will remember the real story. The true story. The story that continues today and goes something more like this: "'Twas the night before nothing, back some 2000 years before, came the birth of a baby boy named Jesus, the blessed spirit, small and poor."

Area Christian Nonprofits Partner to Provide Homeless Men with Transitional Housing

Mel Trotter ICCF Housing Rentals Cutline No. 1Adrienne Goodstal: “We are always looking to be good stewards of the resources God blesses us with.” Two Grand Rapids-based Christian nonprofits have partnered to provide transitional housing for men who previously had no place to live.

Mel Trotter Ministries (MTM) and Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) have opened two housing units at an undisclosed location on Grand Rapids' West side for men who are transitioning from the MTM shelter.

ICCF is the owner and property manager while leasing the two homes to MTM, which will continue to mentor the men in their new living surroundings. Combined, the two homes have a capacity of housing five men.

A Year Ending, A Year Beginning

Toby Mac fedora and TshirtTobyMac As 2018 draws to a close it's a good time do a bit of reflecting. And add to that some looking ahead to 2019.

First, I'd like to mention a couple of holiday-related events coming up yet this month.

* This may be a bit different for the Christmas season... a live comedy sketch show, "Christmas Night Live (CNL)" is set for 7:45pm Fri. Dec. 14 at Grace For the Nations Church, 3333 Kraft Ave. SE Kentwood. Tickets and information at https://www.facebook.com/events/334162673821761/or call 616-974-9128.

For King & Country: Drumming into Christmas

For King  Country - Luke l. and Joel Smallbone2Luke (left) and Joel Smallbone of For King & Country Luke Smallbone recalls how it all started when he and his brother Joel began doing music.

"I thought, 'What do I know how to do?'" asked Smallbone, now 32.

"I knew how to play drums a little bit....and from then it was just getting some drums together and hitting on them as hard as you could."
Now the creative duo and accompanying band For King & Country have their own giant-sized Christmas tour titled "Little Drummer Boy" (with special guest Zach Williams, coming to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids Dec. 9).

Terry’s Picks: December 2018

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

Battling Alcoholism? Steve Agler Understands. ‘There is hope’

Steve Agler Cutline No. 1Linda and Steve Agler There was a time in Steve Agler’s life where everything fell out of place.

A volcanic divorce, damaged wrist bones, drinking two fifths of vodka daily that made him too inebriated to treat his patients in a once successful chiropractic practice resulted in Agler’s downhill spiral. He eventually found himself homeless and eating out of dumpsters.

That was the former Steve Agler.

Ode to Empty Nesters

dan seabornThat's me. A sort of empty nester. I now sometimes have my dad staying with me along with one of my adult daughters. Parents of younger children often dream about this time when they will be empty nesters. The kids will be out of the house and it will just be the two of them again.

For some parents that idea might be a frightening thought. Some couples have invested their entire life in the activities and lives of their children and they don't know what to talk about or how to act when it is just the two of them. I'm thankful that Jane and I have always built in time for ourselves throughout our marriage relationship so that we are comfortable spending time together without the kids.

Friendship CRC to Display Dozens of Nativity Sets from Around the World Dec. 7-8

Friendship CRC cutline No. 1Bev Abma: “My journey started years ago when we were in language school in Costa Rica.” The public is invited to gaze at an assortment of Nativity sets from around the world at Friendship Christian Reformed Church, 190 100th St. SE, in Byron Center.

The Nativity sets will number more than 100 and will be displayed from 4-8 p.m. on Dec. 7 and from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Dec. 8.

A free will offering will be equally divided to support Growing Hope Globally, formally Food Resource Bank, a Christian nonprofit organization that raises resources to support farmers in developing countries to stem food insecurity; and Enyuaata e Maa Development Organization, or EMADO, that works in to substitute Kenya's female genital mutilation for Maasai women with more positive rites of passage.

Products from Global Gifts also will be available for sale.

Local Author Offers New Look at Bible Characters

LessthanperfectAnn Spangler, known for her in-depth and unique studies of biblical stories, this time turns to the flawed characters in the Bible for spiritual insight in her new book "Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We can Learn from Them" (Zondervan).

"I like to say that every story in the Bible is about God; I thought it would be interesting to look at these stories and offer cultural and historical context to see what they reveal to us," said Spangler. "I looked at a range of people, from the despicable like Herod the Great to some who are more like us: a mix of light and darkness."

Christmas Music…Drama, to Celebrate the Season

Hark Up  Geoff HansenGeoff Hansen’s vocals supported by dozens of musicians in last year’s “Hark Up” Since West Michigan has already experienced a taste of winter, area residents seem further drawn to the upcoming Christmas holiday. The list of  musical/drama holiday events begins this month.

One of the preeminent holiday musicals each season is "Hark Up": the multi-media extravaganza featuring hundreds of performers – choirs and instrumental ensembles and soloists. This is the 19th year for the ambitious production, which features five performances: 7:30pm Fri. Nov. 30 and Sat. Dec. 1, and matinee shows at 3pm Sat., and 1:30 and 5:30pm Sun. Dec. 2 at DeVos Center for Worship & the Arts, at Grand Rapids Christian High School, 2300 Plymouth Ave. SE.
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