Local Author Releases New Book for Writers

Written by Hannah VanKampen on . Posted in Local

PBK15RenderAnn Byle has interviewed close to a thousand people throughout her career as a freelance writer for local and national publications.

Now she's used that interview experience to fashion a practical book for Christian writers. "Christian Publishing 101: The comprehensive guide to writing well and publishing successfully—for new authors, editors, and students" is based on interviews with publishing professionals and book authors who provide advice in what could be called a "writer's conference in a book."

When writers go to a conference, often they cannot attend every session due to scheduling overlaps. With this book, that's not a problem. "I don't expect people to be interested in every single chapter," Byle said. "I tried to come up with a wide range of topics to apply to many different genres."

New Music Review: Debra Perry & Majestic Praise

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Debra Perry  CD CoverWest Michigan's multi-talented Debra L. Perry and her ensemble Majestic Praise have a new, praise-filled recording showcasing a mixture of styles.

"Conqueror" takes hold with its ear-grabbing title track featuring syncopated percussion and lyrical phrasing right from the scriptures.
Perry includes numerous Grand Rapids area musicians whom she has worked with through the years. The Bethel Seventh Day Adventist Choir contributes on "You Are God." A GRPS music teacher, Perry singles out the Coit Creative Arts Academy Honors Choir in "Look At Me Now" with a danceable sound and a bit of hip-hop style lyric.

Pastor-Author Affirms Generosity is God’s Intended Super Power for Humankind

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Laura Sumner Truax Cutline No. 1Rev. Laura Sumner Truax: “When we start to live generously, we start to uncover the truth.” Most pastors would perform a celebrative dance if their church received a $1.6 million windfall, but the bonanza initially proved to be a time of spiritual hand-wringing for Rev. Laura Sumner Truax, senior pastor of LaSalle Street Church, a 300-member nondenominational congregation in downtown Chicago.

"I remember feeling so apprehensive," said Sumner Truax, guest speaker Jan. 11 at Calvin College's annual January Series. "I wondered would we survive this blessing. We were facing some pretty big church challenges. We had a big hole in our budget that was growing in a neighborhood that was rapidly gentrifying. We always had bigger dreams than we could ever fill. There were lots of pressure points around us."

Critter Barn a Gem that Teaches Public ‘Miracles’ of the Farm

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Critter Barn Cutline No. 1(from left): The late Florence Henderson and Critter Barn executive director Mary Rottschafer with the Christmas Bunny. Mary Rottschafer compares her three-acre farm to a precious stone that offers the public year-round lessons in agriculture, compassion, life and death and yes, even a front-row seat to miracles.

Just don't make the mistake of calling Rottschafer's Critter Barn, 9275 Adams Street in Zeeland, a petting zoo.

"I feel there's a gem here that unfortunately society doesn't have much access to," said Rottschafer, the Critter Barn's founder and executive director.

"The Critter Barn is a educational farm that teaches children agriculture, how our food is raised and how creation sustains us because that was the plan from the Garden of Eden," continued Rottschafer. "We minister to a lot of children who are less fortunate or are challenged. We give God the glory for the farming community and help kids experience the miracles of the farm, which are unlimited in number throughout the year."

Winter Jam Veterans Return for 2018

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Jason Roy 2nd from right and Building 429Jason Roy (2nd from right) and Building 429Jason Roy and his band Building 429 know the rhythms of the road on the giant Christian music tour called Winter Jam.

"We've done this tour five or six times," recalled Roy during a recent phone interview. "And every time it has felt like the fans are a great big family and are really fired up."

Since the late 1990s Winter Jam has played large venues across the country, including more than a decade's worth of shows at Grand Rapids' Van Andel Arena. With 10 music artists, an inspirational speaker and a modest at-the-door admission charge, the tour has played to as many at 700,000 persons annually.

The (Real) Christmas Story

Written by Dan Seaborn on . Posted in Local

dan seabornDon't let the title fool you. This article isn't about BB guns, Chinese food, or someone's tongue getting stuck on a metal pole. I'd like to talk about the real Christmas story. The one about Jesus.

The story of Mary and Joseph is incredible for a number of reasons. For example, consider how Mary finds out that she is going to have a baby. She's visited by an angel of the Lord who reveals that she will become pregnant through a divine action. She's only about 13 years old and is engaged to Joseph who is probably in his late teens. Joseph learns about the pregnancy but initially he doesn't know about the spiritual intervention.

Therefore, he thinks Mary's been unfaithful to him because he knows he's not been with her. He's left with a tough decision to make. If he accepts Mary's pregnancy, the community will say that he's broken the law by sleeping with her prior to marriage. If he publicly divorces her, he runs the risk that she'll be stoned to death for adultery. Out of compassion, he considers divorcing her privately and not making it a public issue. While he is contemplating his decision, he is also visited by an angel of the Lord who tells Joseph he should go through with the wedding and not be afraid.

Bout With Brain Cancer Kindles New Mission: ‘I Shall Not Die But Declare the Works of the Lord’

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Donna Hill Cutline No. 1-1“There’s power when people are connected by similar circumstances. We give Scripture and encouraging words to each other.” There was a time when Donna Hill was tentative talking to strangers about Christ. A bout with brain cancer that kindled a deeper move of the Holy Spirit has engendered her with a new mission.

"I have a testimony now that's great and I'm not ashamed to share it with people who will listen," said Hill, 68. "If I see someone who doesn't have hair (because of chemotherapy treatments), I'm not intimated to go up to them. I just share how God got me through my battle and He can get them through it too, and one of these days they'll have hair again just like me."

Hill initially assumed she had suffered a stroke in March 2015 when her husband of 48 years, Ron, drove her to Mercy Health Southwest Campus (formerly St. Mary's) in Byron Center.

Instead, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that resulted in a malignant tumor confined only in her brain.

New Music Review: "Give It Up"

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Jeremy Hoekstra Give it Up EP CoverJeremy Hoekstra has a new seven-song collection centered on a theme of finding God's grace anew by letting go and looking beyond temporal circumstances. The collection is aptly titled "Give It Up."

Hoekstra, contemporary worship director at First Evangelical Covenant Church in Grand Rapids, features pop-rock settings for his inspirational lyrics. Some of the words are directly addressed to God, carrying Psalm-like strains of worship.

The highlight there is "Your Love." Beginning at a slower tempo, the song builds to an anthem-esque climax before offering its final, simple prayer, "Lead me out of darkness into your great light."

Hudsonville Christian School Marks 100th Year With Bright Future

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Hudsonville Christian School Cutline No. 1Superintendent Dan Pott stands among artifacts collected in Hudsonville Christian School’s 10-decade history. Hudsonville Christian School (HCS) is in the throes of celebrating its 100th year of educating students from a Reformed perspective. Enrollment numbers and parents' comments indicate the preschool through 8th school's future will continue to shine brightly, said Superintendent Dan Pott.

"There's a real resurgence in people wanting a Christian education," said Pott. "We want to be an academic school and we want to be a school that does best practices, but we also want to make sure this is distinctively Christian."

Grant and Smith Together Again for Holiday Season

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Michael W Smith-Amy Grant Christmas 20172Michael W Smith and Amy Grant team up for a Christmas tour. Singer-songwriter Amy Grant says her Christmas tour with fellow artist Michael W. Smith is a combination of numerous elements that bring the holiday season together.

"It's not artist-focused, it's message-focused," said Grant during a phone interview before a tour performance in Kennewick, Wash. "There's something about these Christmas concerts that is very galvanizing as the audience connects with each other and with the people on stage."

Local Author Addresses Social Issues Through Animals in Her New Books

Written by Hannah VanKampen on . Posted in Local

Dawn-34Dawn M. Thompson, author of Barnyard Bully, Double Trouble, and the upcoming Sedwick the Seagull—scheduled for release in early 2018—has been writing since she was young. "I began writing as a child," Thompson said. "It was something I loved, and something I felt God wanted me to do."

Even though she had been writing for so long, Thompson didn't publish anything until Barnyard Bully in 2016. Thompson said she would get 90 percent of the way through a project and then move on to something new. After attending writers conferences she decided to begin looking into marketing and self publishing. She learned a lot from the internet—and from self-published author friends who made mistakes for Thompson to learn from—and published Barnyard Bully.

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