• Interns gain insight

    It’s a summer they say they’ll never forget.

    Emily Pullen discovered God is at work in many ways, in many places. Chris Laprade built his faith from the ground up.

    Pullen, 19, of Inverness, and Laprade, 21, of Eden, N.C., are two of 20 college interns from various backgrounds participating in Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church’s summer project.

    “God brought us all here,” Pullen said during an interview Thursday.

  • On Religion 07/25/2009: Why so much attention for Episcopalians?

    On a typical Sunday, 4,281 Episcopalians attend services in the world-famous Diocese of New Hampshire, according to official church reports.

    This isn’t a large number of worshippers in the pews of 47 parishes — roughly the same number that would attend weekend Masses in two or three healthy Catholic parishes in a typical American city.

  • GRACE NOTES 7/18/2009: Don't throw stones!

    I don’t often comment on current events in the news in this column, mainly because by the time it’s printed, the news is old. Plus, much smarter and more insightful people have already written everything there is to be said.

    However, I’m going to add my two cents to the conversation about Steve McNair, the ex-NFL quarterback who was found shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide.

    The married Steve McNair who was shot by his 20-year-old girlfriend.

  • Orthodox Jews urged to consider moving to Jacksonville

    JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville is known for its beaches, military installations and the slogan hailing it as “the bold new city of the South.”

    But it isn’t known as a major center for Judaism, with the local Jewish community estimated at 13,000, compared to about 2 million in New York and about 550,000 in South Florida.

    So Rabbi Yoseph Kahanov said he was puzzled to learn the Orthodox Union listed Jacksonville among 22 “emerging communities” Orthodox Jews should consider if seeking to leave Jewish mega-centers such as New York City.

  • GRACE NOTES 07/11/09: A time for joy

    Only my friend Tara could pull off a boisterous, joyful memorial service.

    Her mother, Kaye Reynolds, died May 30 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Her memorial service was July 3.

    Tara had requested that people dress joyously colorful, so there were a lot of reds and greens and blues. Her mother had a flamboyant spirit, much like Tara.

  • 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.