• ON RELIGION 11/28/2009: Movie inspired by true story of faith.

    In the beginning there was “Big Tony” Henderson, whose dying mother urged him to pull his son Steven from a public school on the bad side of Memphis and take him somewhere to get a Christian education.

    But there was one big complication. Steven didn’t want to abandon his buddy Michael Oher (pronounced “Oar”), a street kid who slept on their floor most nights. “Big Mike” was afraid to return to the bleak foster homes he knew after police tore him away from his mother, her crack pipe and her 13 children.

  • GRACE NOTES 12/05/2009: No earthquakes today

    Good news for all you cranky pants people: According to an Australian study, thinking negatively and being sad may actually be good for you.

    The study, conducted by a psychology professor at the University of New South Wales, showed that people with negative moods seem to be less gullible and better able to judge other people and their surroundings.

  • GRACE NOTES 11/28/2009: I don't know beans

    The week prior to Thanksgiving, my church participated in a week of hunger.

    The plan was to eat only beans, rice and tortillas for five days to experience what a huge percent of people around the world eat all the time.

    Then we were to take the money we would’ve spent on food and donate it to help feed orphans in Haiti. In addition, after a shortened worship service, we would be dismissed early to go grocery shopping to buy food items to benefit local food pantries.

  • JUDI'S JOURNAL 11/21/2009: Why Jews love Thanksgiving

    Every year around this time, my Yankee heart starts yearning for the crisp, fall weather of New England. I miss the vibrant foliage, apple fests, pumpkin patches and comfy sweaters that so characterize autumn in the Northeast. But I especially like Thanksgiving, and I don’t have to be in New England to celebrate this fall feast.

  • Island church

    The Rev. Bill Howe remembers the day he discovered Ozello Island Church.

    He had been asked to conduct a memorial service for a local resident at the causeway at the end of Ozello Trail.

    He had never even heard of Ozello, but the deceased woman had worked with his wife at a bank in Ocala, so he came.

    “We came down on February 21, did the memorial service, and on our way out I pulled up in front of this church,” he said. “Out on the marquee it said, ‘temporarily closed.’”

  • Church, Christian school to mark anniversary

    In 53 years, the world has changed drastically, but Fort Cooper Baptist Church in Inverness has remained true to its roots.

    “We’re the kind of church that has stayed old-fashioned,” said the Rev. Marne Palmani, church pastor. “We’ll use whatever technology we can use, but keep the old-fashioned religion. We sing old-time hymns, use old-time preaching and we’ve stayed missions-minded.”

  • Wide open arms

    On Thursday nights, Bruce Groves is learning what it means to be baptized.

    A longtime resident of New Horizons Village (formerly Key Pine Village), he says it means “Jesus.”

    For Tim Wilson, he says it gives him joy to be a Christian.

    “I like to listen to the preacher,” he said.

    On Sunday, Dec. 6, Groves and Wilson and eight other New Horizons residents will be baptized at the 10:50 a.m. service at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Lecanto.

  • GRACE NOTES 11/21/2009: Thanksgiving psalm

    (NOTE: This is my annual Thanksgiving psalm.)

    Merciful God,

    Every year at this time as I start to pen a psalm of Thanksgiving, I’m never quite sure where to begin, or even how to approach you.

    I have so little to lay at your feet. No grand deeds, no souls saved because of something I’ve said or done. Truth is, I’m feeling empty-handed and ashamed, aware of my unworthiness, yet confident of your great mercy.

    O, how I cherish your mercy!

  • ON RELIGION 11/07/2009: Openly atheist film prompts no outcry

    When it comes to comedian Ricky Gervais, journalist Paul Asay openly confesses that he is a fan.

    This may seem strange since Asay works for Plugged In, a media Web site sponsored by Focus on the Family — a powerful brand name in evangelical media. Yes, he knows the hip writer, actor and director is a proud, articulate atheist. However, he also thinks that Gervais is “actually quite talented and a very funny guy.”

  • Familiar face

    When Florence Langley steps up to the pulpit in front of the congregation at Mt. Carmel Methodist Church in Floral City, she stands where her great-grandfather once stood.

    One hundred five years ago, the Rev. Andrew “A.W.” Williams was founding pastor of the church back when Floral City was a boomtown and upwards of 400 came to the tin-roofed church for Sunday worship.