• Freedom by faith

    As a boy growing up in the Nuba mountain region of Sudan, Nagi Konagi remembered his father’s warning: “If anyone kidnaps you, don’t be naughty. Be decent, otherwise they will cut the tendons in your legs and you will not be able to run away.”

    On a recent trip to the United States, including a visit with Crystal River friend Norman Hopkins, Konagi told the story of being kidnapped as a child and escaping, as well as how God used an American missionary to change the course of his life.

  • JUDI'S JOURNAL 07/04/09: Freedom and the Bible

    Against the blackened sky, the exploding shells scintillate and blaze forth in myriad colors and patterns, awakening the summer night with echoing booms as the designs fade into wisps of sulfur vapor and evaporate into nothingness.

    The crowd cheers and claps for more, and the act is repeated over and over until the pyrotechnic show ends and the people depart for home. But while this display captures the fascination and delights the crowd, are the people thinking of the reason for the event and the concept it celebrates?

  • Moved to worship

    When the music starts and Debbie Ward takes her first steps, the audience she sees narrows down to just one.

    The sanctuary may be filled to capacity, but she’s only aware of God.

    She dances for God because he’s God and because he created her to dance.

    As dance minister at Gulf to Lake Church in Crystal River, Ward’s goal as she occasionally dances during a church service is to lead people into another form of worship.

  • GRACE NOTES 07/04/09: Wisdom -- that's what I want.

    A few weeks ago I heard a sermon about wisdom.

    I wisely took notes, then lost them and forgot much of what the pastor said.

    But I do remember one thing. He said God came to King Solomon in a dream and said he could ask for anything and he’d give it to him.

    What’s the one thing you want most, Sol? Riches? Power? A BMW and a penthouse overlooking the city? Good health? Long life? A soft-serve ice cream machine out by the pool?

    Solomon acknowledged God’s great kindness to his father, King David, and now to him as king of Israel.

  • GRACE NOTES 06/27/2009: He restoreth my soul

    As I write this, it’s Day 8 of my 10 days off.

    The first five days were a blur of not doing much — reading, laundry, cleaning out my bathroom junk drawer. I watched a lot of reality TV, dozed on the couch, thought about washing my windows, made a pot of black beans one day, which were very good, thought about cleaning out the refrigerator.

    Then came Day 6 — Beach Day. We strapped our bikes onto the back of the truck and drove to Clearwater Beach, the clear, blue sky and hot, hot sun designed by the chamber of commerce.

    Or perhaps God.

  • Letting in the light

    GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — Starting at age 4, Sheila Schuller Coleman has held just about every job at her father’s Crystal Cathedral, from copying Sunday programs at the kitchen table to launching a private high school on the church grounds.

    Now, five decades after the Rev. Robert H. Schuller Sr. first planted the church, his daughter is facing her most challenging job there yet: taking over her father’s megachurch and its famous “Hour of Power” television ministry at a time of both financial and family crisis.

  • Making ministers behind bars

    PARCHMAN, Miss. — The graduates patted each other’s backs, and nervously chatted with their families. Some sat quietly, meditating about their future, while others wept.

    It could have been a scene from any of the thousands of commencement ceremonies this year. But these graduates were convicted killers, rapists and drug dealers at Mississippi’s only maximum-security prison.

  • JUDI'S JOURNAL 06/21/2009: Reconstructionist Judaism

    While most people have heard of Orthodox, Conservative or Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism usually draws a complete blank. It is not exactly a household word, but its beliefs and practices have found their way into the other branches of Judaism, with most Jews not realizing where these ideas have come from.

  • GRACE NOTES 06/21/2009: An anti-'Avis' spirituality

    Here’s a backwards, upside-down thought: What if you went to church and the pastor pointed his finger and said, “Stop trying harder.”

    Alan Kraft, the pastor of a church in Greeley, Colo., wrote a book last year called “Good News for Those Trying Harder.” The good news being: Stop!

  • Nancy Kennedy, Grace Notes, 06/13/09

    As I plan for my upcoming week off from work next week, here are some random thoughts I’ve been thinking:

    * Someone said all of life illustrates Bible truth. I thought about that last Friday while driving to three of my favorite places — the Goodwill, Ulta (cosmetics and beauty store) and Panera.

    The traffic bearable, the weather beautiful the whole drive in, I listened to a sermon on CD and felt quite holy and sanctified, which always puts me in a good mood. I’ve forgotten what I heard, but it was good nonetheless.