Category Archives: Feature Story Extra

Confessions of a tech addict

by Karen Stiller

Before I had my own iPhone, I judged harshly those pathetic, addicted people who always had their phones on, and on them. Always scrolling, fingers dashing from one app to another, sometimes barely looking up.

Check out our article on digital addiction and ancient disciplines in the current issue of Faith Today.

Then, of course, I quickly became one of them. My phone is almost always on and almost always on me. Our landline is a thing of the past, so, I can convince myself my phone in my pocket or my palm is necessary. How else would my kids find me on those rare instances when they still need me? More truthfully, how would I find them? What if something happens to my parents? How else will I know that my sister has made even more beet jelly, if not from Facebook? How on earth would I wake up in the morning if not for my phone alarm?

The reasons go on and on, but the truth is, I’m likely addicted to the pings and the alerts, the likes and the tags, all the amusements and the distractions. A lot of us are. And it takes a toll.

“We are not meant to live global lives,” says Rick Hiemstra. He’s director of research and media relations for the EFC, Faith Today‘s publisher, and he is one of the reasons we have such a challenging article in the Nov/Dec Faith Today, “Modern Devices and Ancient Disciplines.”

Like a lot of us, Rick is concerned about the impact of our devices on our souls and our lives and our time and our relationships. He sends us editors articles every now and then, and reads books on this topic. He suggested we do this article and we are glad we did.

Rick is also researching youth and their place in the Church, and he keeps bumping up against the digital world, and how deeply entrenched in it our youth are, and how this impacts them. By global lives, he means, of course, a life lived on the world’s stage for all to see, photographing and projecting all our edited moves for other people to like, or devastatingly, to not like, or maybe even worse, to ignore. And to be so connected to so many people that years ago we would have said farewell to and maybe run into them at some awkward high school reunion years later! Now we get to see and compare and feel better or worse on a daily basis if we want.

It’s a new world we are in, and the ancient spiritual disciplines might help us find ourselves again.

So, give this article a read, and then use that phone of yours to let us know what you think. Then set it down for a while and maybe go for a walk? That’s what I’m going to try to do.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Have you not started your Christmas shopping either? Check out this subscription deal/gift idea.

A prayer for South Sudan. A prayer for all of us.

By Dorothy de Vuyst

As my flight began its decent into Juba, South Sudan, and I once again saw the vast, dry, desolate land below me, my heart ached.  “God, help this land,” I prayed.  “Intervene in a way only You can. Bring peace and healing to this country that so needs You.”

I was travelling to South Sudan to visit a couple of humanitarian aid programs Samaritan’s Purse was implementing in the country.  This was not my first trip to what still remains the world’s newest country, which only a year and half into its independence from Sudan, erupted into a bloody, tribal conflict in December 2013.

South Sudanese women who are refugees in Uganda sort out their food allotment. You can read a story about the remarkable, difficult work happening in Uganda in the Sep/Oct Faith Today.

Now, four years later, the country which at one time had so much hope, was on the brink of imploding.  Four million South Sudanese people are displaced, with over two million of those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, most of those in Uganda.  Millions more lack sufficient food with the recent harvest doing little to ease the hunger so many faced.  Tropical disease and cholera outbreaks continue to claim lives.

As disturbing as those statistics are, perhaps the most heartbreaking are the stories of violence.  Women and young girls raped and beaten.  Young children forced to carry weapons and kill.  Villages pillaged and burnt because they belong to a different tribe.  Infants being drowned as their mothers hold them under water for fear of being seen by the enemy seeking to kill them.  Such anguish, injustice, and brokenness that at times is so overwhelming.

Earlier in the year I had visited the refugee settlements in Uganda, a country that had opened their doors to over a million South Sudanese refugees.  As I sat with women who shared their stories of trauma and loss, I desperately wanted justice and even revenge. I thought of the political leaders in South Sudan whose self-serving agendas have made life so difficult and painful for so many people. The hatred and anger of militant groups that rape and pillage innocent women and turn children into killers.

But as I reflected further I realized that being close to suffering and death and injustice doesn’t just reveal the brokenness of others, it also exposes my own brokenness.  My own need for mercy because of choices I have made, the people I have hurt.

This is the world that Jesus came into.  This is the world for which Jesus had so much compassion.  This is the brokenness that broke the heart of God. And not only the brokenness I see in countries like South Sudan and Uganda. Jesus has compassion on my brokenness as well. And knowing that in turn allows me to extend grace and compassion.

So I continue to pray.  I pray for a stop to the conflict.  I pray for courage and resiliency for those suffering.  I pray for tenacity in the midst of this fragile and complicated country.

But most of all I pray for God’s healing touch in the hearts and minds of this beautiful nation; that they will experience His mercy and forgiveness.  Because only when that happens will this country begin to see genuine and lasting change.

Dorothy de Vuyst is the Regional Director, Africa, for Samaritan’s Purse Canada. The Sep/Oct Faith Today has a story about this refugee crisis. 

Give thanks continually … to the people you work with

by Rick Franklin

When was the last time someone went out of their way to thank you? Do you remember what they did? What they said? How you felt?

Check out the current issue of Faith Today for this story by Rick Franklin and more.

Last week I was in the Netherlands training ministry leaders. After the training finished, I caught up with some friends my wife and I have known for years. It was a wonderful reunion of deep friendship spent swapping stories of life and faith, growing older and seeing God’s faithfulness. A highlight of our visit was witnessing the 73rd commemoration of the Airborne landings on Ginkel Heath in Ede.

I doubt you’ve heard of it, but here we were with thousands of people young and old gathered in the Dutch countryside to commemorate and thank the hundreds of paratroopers, soldiers and resistance fighters from England, the United States, Poland and the Netherlands who fought and lost the Battle of Arnhem.

Yes, you read that correctly—the commemoration celebrated a lost battle, a military failure. But for the Dutch under German occupation, it signaled an important turning point and actually provided a reason for hope at a time when hope was in short supply. It indicated help was coming even if the first wave was unsuccessful. So the Dutch continue to celebrate and thank the soldiers today, 73 years after the doomed battle.

There’s an important leadership lesson for us here. In my article from the current edition of Faith Today, I highlight 5 critical skills church leaders should nurture—leading from a strong spiritual foundation, knowing where you’re headed, serving sacrificially, communicating clearly and thanking continually.

I’d like to expand on the point of thanking continually. First, we have a biblical example and mandate to thank. For example, Paul tells us to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18; see also Eph. 5:20) and he expresses thanks to God often for his co-workers in ministry. In Philippians 1:3, Colossians 1:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2 and other passages, Paul models explicitly and specifically thanking fellow believers for their part in ministry.

Second, on a practical level, expressing gratitude and thankfulness is powerful. We see this in the Dutch celebration of the Battle of Arnhem, as it continues to impact people today, 73 years later.

Showing appreciation motivates and enlivens. Thanking people empowers them and provides encouragement, which is often in short supply.

Think about when someone went out of their way to thank you for something you did. Maybe it was a kind word or leaving a note of thanks on your desk or giving you a small gift for going above and beyond what was expected. How’d you feel? In a word, it feels good.

But I bet it did more. My guess is it helped provide additional motivation to lean in, to step up, to go the extra mile.

That’s what gratitude does in the people we have the privilege of leading and serving. It breathes life into people to know they matter, hearing that their efforts and contributions are valued and appreciated.

So as a leader—an influencer—in your church (or in your home, workplace, neighbourhood, etc.), let me encourage you to frequently express gratitude by incorporating these few simple ideas to show your appreciation and thankfulness.

Simply say “thank you.” I’ve heard from many church volunteers, who shared they’ve never been thanked for serving. Thanks goes a long way especially for those who donate their time and talent at church. So say thanks often and see what happens!

Write a note to express appreciation. It can be a sticky note or in a beautiful card. What matters are the words of appreciation you choose and taking the time to personally express your gratitude.

Give a small gift. Often times it’s appropriate to give a gift to share appreciation and thanks. Think creatively and have fun. You can give flowers, food, something from your local Christian bookstore or anything that conveys gratitude.

Thank publicly. Take opportunities to recognize people’s efforts and contributions publicly. Even though some may shy away from the attention, folks deeply value being honoured and valued in a public way. It says, “I noticed what you did and greatly value you and what you’ve done.”

Thank in the midst of failure. One of the most powerful ways to express gratitude is in the midst of failure, as the Dutch did. It’s easy to recognize success. It’s more meaningful to find the good when someone fails.

In a word, be creative! There are thousands of different ways to say “thank you.” Just try to find ways of expressing your gratitude that are meaningful to the person you’re thanking. Not everyone is like you or likes to be thanked the same way you do. If you need some help, take a look at Gary Chapman and Paul White’s book, The Five Languages of Appreciation.

Thank often and you’ll breath life, encouragement and motivation into the people you lead and serve. Frequently express gratitude and appreciation and then watch the impact unfold! Who knows, maybe your influence will be far greater than you could imagine… influencing people 73 years later.

Dr. Rick Franklin is vice president, Arrow Leadership Ministries. For over 25 years, Arrow Leadership has developed thousands of Christian leaders around the world to be led more by Jesus, lead more Like Jesus and lead more people to Jesus. You can read the current issue of Faith Today online, but even better than that subscribe today to access one of our most popular subscription deals.

Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

Alex Newman, the writer of the Sep/Oct Faith Today’s story on helping children after a divorce, takes us behind the scenes of her own story and her research.

by Alex Newman

I’m an eternal optimist. After the initial alarm over the bad stats on kids of divorce, I decided to look at the percentage of kids who did well. What happened to make them thrive and overcome the odds? It’s something I’ve discussed with my friend Esme Fuller Thompson, a social work professor whose research is precisely in this area. Although I’d done a ton of reading already, she was especially helpful in directing me to studies I would never have come across, like the Israeli one that shows when a mom and the paternal grandparents stay close, the kids do better.

Read “Stability is the Key” in the latest Faith Today.

It’s all that research that is so challenging in writing a story like this, because it becomes almost impossible to condense it all into one article. I did my best but I’m afraid it only scratched the surface. Below all those studies are real people and real people can react in different ways and require different handling. So while there are some fundamental and foundational guidelines for helping your kids, there’s a lot of latitude depending on the child, the parents, the siblings, and so on.
Continue reading Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

A Canadian author tackles the life of David in upcoming novel: A FT mini-interview with Mark Buchanan

Readers of the Jul/Aug Faith Today were treated to a take on King David that we might not have read before. “You anoint my head with oil: What a Bronze Age warrior-king can teach us about friends and enemies,” is an inspiring essay that looks at the friendships in David’s life, and how they might help us with our own.

But Mark Buchanan (MB) is working on more than that angle of David’s life. Deeply immersed in the writing process for his upcoming novel based on the life of the warrior-King from the Bible, one of our fave Faith Today (FT) writers took a few minutes out of his writing schedule to tell us more about the book, and his creative process.

Mark Buchanan’s essay in the Jul/Aug issue of Faith Today examines the role of friendship in David’s life. Buchanan is working on a novel about the warrior-king’s life.

FT: Mark, tell us about the novel you’re working on about David. What do readers need to know?

MB: I explore David’s story and character from multiple perspectives of those who know him well – his wife Michal, his nephew and general Joab, his priest Abiathar, and so on. I weave these multiple viewpoints into an overarching narrative that traces David’s life from birth to death. And, of course, I salt the whole thing with snippets of Davidic psalms. I am hoping that the overall effect captures both the sweep and grandeur of the story and the depth and complexity of the man.

David’s central and lifelong quest revolves around his longing for the father’s love. That explains nearly everything about him – from his astonishing intimacy with God to his failures as a husband, to his aloofness and yet indulgence toward his own children, especially his sons. It explains his military feats and his domestic fiascos. So I’ve made that quest – to find the father’s love – the deep story of the novel.

FT: What have you learned about David and his story that surprised or moved you particularly?

MB: That David is no hero. He’s a flawed and conflicted man who keeps throwing himself on God. He’s a king who needs a King, a father who needs a Father.

FT: We tend to think of you as a non-fiction writer. What has writing fiction been like for you?

MB: Wonderful. Terrifying. Deeply satisfying. Tormentingly hard. And it is borderline insanity to try to tackle a story so loved and revered – there are so many ways to mess this up. So we’ll see…

FT: What is your hope for the book?

MB: That it invites those who know the story well to reimagine it and reengage it, and invites those who don’t know it at all to explore the source material.

FT: What is next? Or are you thinking of that yet?

MB: Another novel – about a pastor who is a kind of modern day David.

FT: Thanks Mark!

MB: And you as well. Thanks for indulging my obsession.

Mark Buchanan is associate professor of pastoral theology at Ambrose University in Calgary. He is author of several books including Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns the World Upside-Down(Zondervan, 2012). Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul (Zondervan, 2010) and the forthcoming David: A Novel (Watch for news of its release this Winter).

Faith Today loves to tell stories of the creative Christian arts in Canada today.  Subscribe now for a regular dose of inspiration. 

Six Habits to Enrich your marriage this Summer and beyond

The Jul/Aug Faith Today featured a story about Heart to Heart Marriage and Family Ministries, the new initiative by Ron and Ann Mainse to help build strong marriages. We asked Ron and Ann to write a guest blog on how to enrich your marriage. Thanks Ron and Ann!

 By Ron & Ann Mainse

We all know that good habits can help us feel better and live better…and that’s especially true in marriage!  Doing loving things every day can be like a daily dose of vitamins for a marriage, just what the doctor ordered for a long and healthy relationship.

Ron and Ann Mainse are co-leaders of Heart to Heart Marriage & Family Ministries. We welcome them as guest bloggers to Faith Today!

If you really think about it, you can probably come up with dozens of little habits that can help to strengthen your marriage, habits like picking up your shoes or replacing the toilet paper roll, but let’s just focus on some of the biggies…

Show gratitude.
Saying “I love you” goes without saying (meaning, it’s a given that you should say it regularly).  But what about regularly saying “thank you” …and meaning it!  That may seem insignificant, but when your spouse feels valued and appreciated on a regular basis, the groundwork is laid for deeper intimacy. I know it means a lot to me (Ann) when Ron thanks me for even the little things like doing the laundry and putting it away.  It may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference to me that he noticed.   And when I (Ron) come in the house tired, hot and sweaty after mowing the lawn, and Ann smiles and gives me a genuine, “Thanks, Honey, for doing that,” those words are like a cold cup of ice water for my soul.

Continue reading Six Habits to Enrich your marriage this Summer and beyond

Don’t read your Bible the way you’ve been taught: Scripture Union offers guidance this summer

It is Scripture Union’s 150th birthday, a milestone we cover in the Jul/Aug issue of Faith Today. We thought it would be fun to ask them to do what they do best for blog readers, help us read the Bible this summer. We asked Lawson Murray, Scripture Union president, to give us a nudge in the right direction.

By Lawson Murray

The key to reading your Bible is not to read it … at least not to read it the way you’ve been taught to read.

To help mark its 150th birthday, Scripture Union has published this book, full of Bible reading tips.

The way we normally read is based on three ingrained assumptions:

  • We’re the masters of what we read
  • Texts/content are subordinate to our intellect
  • We have the right to choose what to do or not do with what we learn.

When it comes to Bible reading these assumptions create tremendous obstacles because they place us in control when God should be in control (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).

God must direct our reading. This happens when we learn to read the Bible on its own terms. We cannot, and should not, be the masters of what we read. Nor can we stand to one side exercising our cognition and intellect to evaluate or control the text in the light of our own best interests. Rather, the Bible must read us!
Continue reading Don’t read your Bible the way you’ve been taught: Scripture Union offers guidance this summer

Theological education is especially important here: An interview with Glen Taylor in The Gambia

Jul/Aug Faith Today profiles the work of Wycliffe College professor Glen Taylor, and the four year degree in Christian Studies he helped create in The Gambia, West Africa. We interviewed Taylor (GT) via email, while he is in The Gambia this summer to find out more.

Professor Glen Taylor and his class this summer in The Gambia.

FT: Glen, what have you learned from the Church in The Gambia?

GT: Probably the biggest lesson concerns the depth and vitality of faith in Jesus. More church folk here seem unquestionably faith-full than at home. It is almost like they have extra powers of perception to see the living God in everyday life. One reason for this is that many Christians (and others) make so little money that making ends meet is often a miracle in itself.

FT: What is the greatest need of the Church there?

GT: Probably resources and a greater sense of cooperation across denominations. Regarding resources, the Anglican bishop lamented to me that if capital was available the diocese could, for example, construct an office building to house its diocesan office, rent out space to others and be able to generate revenue. In other words, it takes money to make money. The lack of the former is exasperating to those who can imagine a different economic scenario. As it stands, money is short and church buildings and such seem only to get more dilapidated.
Continue reading Theological education is especially important here: An interview with Glen Taylor in The Gambia

Confessions of a kid who didn’t rebel

An interview with Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, author of Faith Today‘s May/Jun cover story, “Help your kids embrace the faith: trading in picture-perfect faith for authentic experience.”

FT: Rebecca, you have a book coming out in the fall with Thomas Nelson called “Why I didn’t rebel.” How did this all come about?

RL: I wrote a blog post for my mom [writer Sheila Wray Gregoire] on the same topic. We had about a quarter of a million people in the first three weeks read it, and we had over a million people see it on Facebook. It was shared on pinterest. I was getting people sending me screenshots asking it if was me. When it blew up, I did all my interviews and made it into a book.

Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach is the writer of “Help your kids embrace the faith,” Faith Today’s May/Jun cover story.

FT: Why do you think your blog and ideas touched such a nerve?

RL: It’s a topic that touches everyone, right. Everyone knows a teenager or has a kid or has a family member like a grandchild or niece, just that kid at church that you take under your wing.

We’re also just really curious, and we’re all busybodies, that’s how humans are. So, when you hear “why I didn’t rebel,” you want to know. I did think about how I could word it in a way that made people interested.
Continue reading Confessions of a kid who didn’t rebel

Six things I wish I had learned in medical school

By Laura Lewis, MD

I wish I had learned…

That science can only describe the magnificence of life, not explain it. Despite learning about oocytes, spermatozoa, cell division and embryology, I failed to appreciate the complex blueprint of life, established in the early moments of conception.

During the course of her work as a frontline medical doctor, she saw the need for education, support and practical options for women and men facing unplanned pregnancies. In May of 2016, Dr. Lewis accepted the position of executive director of CAPSS.

That in the name of “choice” many women have no choice regarding their unplanned pregnancy.
I never appreciated that the scared, young woman sitting across from me in my doctor’s office also carried the fear and pressure of many others whose lives would be impacted by her decision. This fear is often laden with pressure, subtle and overt.

That many men and women live with great regret about their children lost to abortion.
As I began to work with our local pregnancy care centre, stories of deep and hidden sorrow began to emerge from post-abortive women and men. It made me question whether we have done an adequate job providing real choices. I know the answer without hesitation – we have not. True choice is when accurate information is provided on all options. True choice is made from a place of knowledge and confidence, not fear.

That despite our ability to treat a diseased heart, we have no cure for a broken one. 
We cannot fix a broken heart, but we should do all that we can to try and prevent it. I wish all women, men and families facing an unplanned pregnancy could hear the cries of regret from those who have walked before them. The physical, mental and emotional effects of abortion matter, whether it is 1% or 100% of patients affected.

That a microscope, while magnifying an image, can actually dull our focus.
A chromosome count cannot measure value. Prenatal testing cannot predict love or the impact and purpose of a life.

That when it comes to unplanned pregnancy, we often fail our patients. That is my word for it, failure. Our patients come to us for guidance, education and unbiased help during the chaos of an unplanned pregnancy. Yet, in our society and in medical circles, abortion provision, accessibility and availability are given a greater platform and emphasis than supportive alternatives such as adoption and pregnancy care support.

It is my hope there will be a change, in our society and in the medical profession. It is time for a new response to those facing an unplanned pregnancy, one where we look beyond the scientific process and we enter into a new conversation, one where all life is valued and protected.

Dr. Laura Lewis is a family physician and executive director of CAPSS (Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services). CAPSS is dedicated to establishing, equipping and encouraging local pregnancy care centres across Canada. Read Faith Today‘s recent Question & Answer interview with Dr. Lewis.