This blog is maintained on behalf of the Amy Foundation for the purpose of tracking the best Christian journalism we find on the Web. Our posts regularly identify those news articles or opinions in the mainstream media that represent good faith-based writing and example them for other Christian journalists.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Associated Press Article that ...

Doesn't qualify.

Here is an excellently presented story about the Potter’s Clay, a faith-based, addictions treatment program operated in South Carolina’s prison system. In the story titled, “Faith-based program helps SC prisoners combat addictions,” Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard tells about the program's success in the life of Brian Shores, a recovered drug addict. I found the inspiring story in The Charlotte Observer.

Kinnard writes:
In and out of prison for the past 30 years, Brian Shores had all but given up hope that he'd ever have a life without crime. His temper, coupled with a dependency on alcohol and drugs, landed the Aiken County man in prison time and again, most recently for aggravated assault and battery and threatening a public official.

But Shores, who is to be released Monday after a five-year stint in a South Carolina prison, says he now has a new lease on life thanks to the solace he's found in a faith-based prison recovery program.

"I'm here because God sent me here," said Shores, 52, his forearms covered in the swirling black tattoos worn by many inmates. "I know about drug addiction and alcoholism. And I guess it just takes whenever you finally hit bottom and you give up. You've got nothing left but God."
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Kinnard’s article is an excellent example of how a journalist can present the truth of Christ within the bounds of professional journalism. Unfortunately, the piece does not include an identifiable scripture, so it doesn’t qualify for the Amy Writing Awards (AWA).

Here is the advice I give would-be AWA finalists, like Kinnard, seeking to submit a news item as opposed to an opinion piece, which would provide more latitude: include the scripture as part of an interviewee quotation.

Meg, keep up the good work!

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Excellent, non-qualifying story on Santa

Here is an excellent story of why we have a Santa Claus tradition. “God Talk: History lesson: Saint Nicholas, a servant of Christ,” written by Jay Nelson and published in the Red Bluff Daily News (Tehama County, California), tells the story of how Turkish-born St. Nicholas became Santa Claus.

Nelson writes:

What about Santa Claus? With our young children, it is fun to pretend there is this guy with eight tiny reindeer who lives at the North Pole. He delivers presents to every single household in the world all in one night! Just as other things, this will fade with age.

There is concern that the celebration of Christ's birth during this season will be overshadowed by the anticipation of gifts, and the prominence of a make-believe "gift-bringer." It is imperative that we discuss the historic figure of St. Nicholas with our children. Not so much Clement Moore's depiction of "a right jolly old elf," with rosy cheeks and twinkling eyes, but of the real man who lived a life devoted to God.

Between the blend of fact and legend, one thing is clear. He was a man of action, living out his Christian faith in word and deed. In all accounts, Bishop Nicholas would have readily agreed, the greatest gift ever given to mankind is salvation through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
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This well written article is very informative and encourages people of Christian faith to believe in the spirit of Santa Claus, even while we are dissappointed at Santa's increasing secularization and materialization.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see where Nelson cited the “holy scriptures,” to which his opinion referred several times. That means the article wouldn’t qualify for the Amy Writing Awards, even though it is one of the better articles I have read this year.

I am going to write Jay and encourage him to include scripture the next time he writes.

Jay, keep up the good work!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Great article, doesn't qualify ...

Here is a great article about sisters standing up for their Christian faith as they pursue a career in music. The article is titled, "Church Sisters celebrate love of God through song," written by Rebecca Blanton for the Danville Register & Bee, Danville, Virginia.

Blanton writes:

The two sixth-grade twins withdrew from a previous agreement to sing before Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine when they were told they couldn’t make references to God in their songs.

Being gospel singers, the request put 12-year-old Savannah and Sarah Church in a difficult position. First, the girls said, God and Jesus are what they sing about, and also, they sing specifically in order to share their faith.

“The assistant principal, Cedric Hairston from Dan River Middle School, called and asked us to come sing for the governor at the Commonwealth Scholars program,” the girl’s mother, Stephanie Duncan, said.
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This is an inspiring article about two high school age sisters that seek to honor God in their performances and are blessed because of it. It is also informative about the choices that musicians must make to honor their faith while pursuing a career that is increasingly influenced by American Idol.

Unfortunately, Blanton doesn't reference identifiable scripture in her engaging article, and thus does not qualify for the the Amy Writing Awards. I am going to email her, tell her about the awards, and encourage her to continue writing (and possibly qualifying).

Keep up the good writing, Rebecca!

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Google Reader: new process for finding articles

For the past few weeks, I have been using what is called a news/blog "aggregator" for collecting news and items on the web about my work in educational technology (read: day job). My aggregator of choice is Google Reader, which watches the websites I tell it to watch and brings back new articles in date order.

It lets me be very efficient in finding information I can use. I cannot believe how many items I have bookmarked or saved since I started the practice.

Well, last night, when I was using Google News to look up my typical "God faith Christian" search for news articles and opinions to blog about, I realized Googel Reader could help me out. At the bottom of the page, Google let me add the search to my Google Reader.

Long story short, Google Reader streamlined the process of finding good articles and opinion on which to blog. In the first pass, the aggregator helped me find 2 articles/opinions of worth. Since I normally find less than 1 a week (on average), Google Reader promises to double my productivity.

So I plan to up the number of blog posts, which probably means I'll write less of my own thoughts. But we'll see ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Interesting Opinion in the San Jose Mercury News

I found the opinion, titled “A season for all to work for peace” in the San Jose Mercury News (12/11/07) interesting because it is qualifying Amy Writing Awards piece written by Santa Clara University President Paul Locatelli.

It is not every day you see a president of a prominent University speaking on a topic of faith, let alone citing scripture as a reference, although Santa Clara is a Jesuit institution. It makes sense and so does Locatelli

Locatelli writes:
During this holiday season, millions of us will be celebrating, in our own ways, God coming into our world.

Our Jewish sisters and brothers are in the midst of their celebration of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, as they recall the victory of the Maccabees, the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple, and the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters will, at the end of December, celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, which lasts for three days and commemorates Ibrahim's
(Abraham's) willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son. But when Ibrahim heard a voice from heaven, he stopped and instead was allowed to sacrifice a ram.

Our African-American sisters and brothers will celebrate Kwanzaa, which recalls seven principles to live by: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

This time is one of particular reflection for me. I find lessons from the past apply to our world today. Advent, which began Dec. 2, is the time when Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
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Locatelli draws in a wider audience by citing other religious observations and then builds his argument for peace on a passage from Isaiah 2, which promises that “one day one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war …” His ecumenical plea may draw readers in, but clearly the truth he shares is a Christian message and call for peace.

And the world could always use more peace.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Non-qualifying Article ... but a good one

Here is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal that explains how “In God we Trust” ended up on U.S. currency (“The Currency of Faith,” 11/20/07).

John Andrew Murray, the author, explains:

Fifty years ago, the phrase "In God We Trust" first appeared on our nation's one-dollar bill. But long before the motto was signed into law by President Eisenhower, it was considered for U.S. coins during the divisive years of the Civil War.

On Nov. 13, 1861, in the first months of the war, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase received the following letter from a Rev. M.R. Watkinson: "Dear Sir, One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins. You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were now shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation?"

The clergyman surmised correctly. Chase was indeed a Christian.
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While this well written and educational piece includes quotations of prominent U.S. officials and other commentators at the time and explains that it was President Lincoln’s desire to see U.S. currency bear the God-fearing inscription, Murray’s brief text does not include any identifiable scripture, which means it doesn’t qualify for the Amy Writing Awards.

I will email Murray and encourage him to keep writing and explain the criteria for the awards, so that might one day qualify and win.