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, February 28, 2010

Qualifying, Challenging Article by Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times

I have to admit it, I read the New York Times ( on a daily basis. As a would-be writer and annual judge for the Amy Writing Awards, I fell in love to the writing style and quality. There is also something inside me that likes my news “liberal” so I understand the bents and biases inside the articles and opinions that challenge and sharpen my Christian world view.

But every once and awhile I run across a Times article that surprises me, that opens my mind beyond the usual analysis and critical thinking. “Learning From the Sin of Sodom” (2/28/2010), written by op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, is one such opinion.

Kristof writes:

For most of the last century, save-the-worlders were primarily Democrats and liberals. In contrast, many Republicans and religious conservatives denounced government aid programs, with Senator Jesse Helms calling them “money down a rat hole.”

Over the last decade, however, that divide has dissolved, in ways that many Americans haven’t noticed or appreciated. Evangelicals have become the new internationalists, pushing successfully for new American programs against AIDS and malaria, and doing superb work on issues from human trafficking in India to mass rape in Congo.

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I have enjoyed reading Kristof’s challenging opinions, especially the ones based on his international assignments, but this one caught me off guard because it used Biblical scripture to substantiate the expanding roll of evangelical Christians in addressing some of the world’s most serious problems.

Kristof keeps his professional distance by quoting an author (an effective way to bring Biblical truth into the mainstream conversation). Kristof writes:

A growing number of conservative Christians are explicitly and self-critically acknowledging that to be “pro-life” must mean more than opposing abortion. The head of World Vision in the United States, Richard Stearns, begins his fascinating book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” with an account of a visit a decade ago to Uganda, where he met a 13-year-old AIDS orphan who was raising his younger brothers by himself.

“What sickened me most was this question: where was the Church?” he writes. “Where were the followers of Jesus Christ in the midst of perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time? Surely the Church should have been caring for these ‘orphans and widows in their distress.’ (James 1:27). Shouldn’t the pulpits across America have flamed with exhortations to rush to the front lines of compassion?

What I believe Kristof accomplishes something remarkable. To use vernacular, he hits conservative readers in the mouth by using scripture typically used to condemn behavior that example God’s expectation for all of us to engage the world where people are suffering most. Then, as if with a smack to back liberal readers’ head, he calls for an understanding, if not appreciation, for the vital role faith-based initiatives play in solving the world’s most pressing problems.

Because Kristof included scripture quotes and proper references, he more than qualifies for the Amy Writing Awards. Honestly, I hope he submits because I want to read more, well written, challenging entries in next year’s submissions. That’s what this blog is aboutn.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ann Coulter qualifies ...

Back at the Amy Writing Awards blog for 2010, it’s sort of a New Year’s resolution. Thanks to Brit Hume’s advice to Tiger Woods on Fox News, the web-based news outlets and blogosphere are fired up.

Here is Ann Coulter’s opinion related Hume’s comments published on the St. Augustine Times website on Monday, January 11, 2010:
Someone mentioned Christianity on television recently and liberals reacted with their usual howls of rage and blinking incomprehension.

On a Fox News panel discussing Tiger Woods, Brit Hume said, perfectly accurately:

"The extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Hume's words, being 100 percent factually correct, sent liberals into a tizzy of sputtering rage, once again illustrating liberals' copious ignorance of Christianity. (Also illustrating the words of the Bible: "How is it you do not understand me when I speak? It is because you cannot bear to listen to my words." John 8:43.)
Coulter drops the “L” for liberal and the “I” for ignorance bombs early and often in this piece, obviously to generate maximum outrage and shock value, but she does qualify her piece with appropriate references to scripture, which qualifies her for the Amy Writing Awards.

Coulter, like Cal Thomas before her, is one of the current standards bearers for conservative values in the mainstream press, serving as lightening rod and fire starter. In this piece she stokes the flames of controversy raised by what was heartfelt advice from Hume. Watching the clip on YouTube showed a sincere Hume to which his counterparts could not adequately respond.

It is unfortunate that the Tiger Woods tragedy had to turn political or even religious. Hume was right in suggesting Jesus offers forgiveness and reconciliation for a multitude of sins.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Good Valentines Article … that doesn’t qualify

I found this Valentine’s Day article/blog through my Google Reader, written by Joe Rodriguez, titled, “Hearts, flowers and faith,” published in on the Wichita Eagle website ( It takes a different bead on the relationship of love and faith by interviewing a series of couples, whose video interviews are intermingled with the story’s text.

Rodriguez writes:
Valentine's Day conjures up familiar images for most of us. Cards, cupids, flowers and candy. But today is also a day when many couples celebrate their long-lasting commitments to each other.

For them, love means marriage, and marriage means a lifetime together, often rooted in a common faith.

Five longtime married couples share the importance of faith in their relationship.

Each talked about the difficulties and challenges they have faced.

But their faith, they say, has been a foundation for their love, and a key to the success of their marriages.
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Rodriguez goes on to summarize the testimonies of the five couples he interviewed. His approach provides an excellent telling of personal faith stories independent of himself as the writer, and this tends to have a greater impact on readers. It also gives the writer an opportunity to reinforce his central point with scripture by quoting one of the interviewees sharing a biblical quote.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see where one of Rodriguez’s interviewees provided him with that opportunity, so this well written article does not qualify for the Amy Writing Awards.

I am going to email Joe and see if he does have other articles that meet the Amy Writing Award entry requirements. In the meantime, Joe, keep up the good work!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fighting words …

Andy Coghlan’s blog post, “Vatican backs Darwin, dumps creationism” (2/11/09) on the Short Sharp Science blog from NewScientist, doesn’t qualify for the Amy Writing Awards, but I am sure the subject of the provocative post will generate more than a few qualifying entries.

Coghlan writes:
"What we mean by evolution is the world as created by God."

Did I say this? No. It was reportedly said on Tuesday by none other than Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture. In effect, the Roman Catholic Church, the dominant Christian faith, is saying that Darwin's theory of evolution is compatible with Christian faith.

After all these years, even the Pope and his pals are on-message, Darwin-wise. At least the admission came a bit sooner than for poor old Galileo, but better late than never.
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The pivotal point of Coghlan’s post is his indication that the Vatican is throwing an Origin of the Species anniversary party and letting creationists and “intelligent design” advocates know they aren’t invited.

I’m not sure where Coghlan comes down on questions of personal faith, but it’s clear he’s happy to see the Vatican side with evolution. I can only imagine the interest and opinion writing this will generate. My hope is, like Coghlan’s blog post, the conversation remains passionate, yet civil without name-calling or condemnation.

This presents thoughtful writers with plenty of opportunity to eloquently share their thoughts, their faith, and smartly reinforce their arguments with scripture, and the Amy Writing Awards will be better for it.

Get writing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Everything, but …

Here is an article on that has everything an award-winning Amy Writing Award entry needs, except one thing. Written by Kyle Whelliston, the well written column is titled, “Coaches lose shoes for a good cause,” and tells the story about what happened when Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) coach Ron Hunter coached a basketball game last year in his bare feet last year to raise awareness for the charity Samaritan's Feet.

Whelliston writes:
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ron Hunter sat in his office Wednesday afternoon, staring into his inbox on a blinking computer screen. As has been the case for the past year, most of the messages were about shoes.

"I can't keep up with all of these," said the IUPUI head coach enthusiastically. "We've had 80,000 pairs donated just today. And here's one from a guy in South Carolina who coaches seventh graders … all the coaches in his league are going shoeless this weekend. Isn't that great?"

One Thursday evening in January 2008, at the request of Samaritan's Feet, Hunter spent a game walking the sidelines without shoes or socks to raise awareness for a charity which collects shoes for impoverished children around the world. It was a simple act, intended to generate 40,000 pairs of sneakers for African children to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's death.
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That’s is what I love about God. He rewards humility and sacrifice, now, when Jesus walked in bare feet, and every time in between. Remember the story about the fishermen who fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus suggested they cast their nets one more time. The Bible says, “… they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” (Luke 5:6 NIV).

There is so much imagery in Whelliston’s story with tie-ins to the story in Luke, but no direct link. Enough good gym shoes to fill a fleet of fishing boats, but no direct Jesus. I wish it did. If it did, I know we’d be reading this story in the later rounds of the 2010 Amy Writing Awards, but without identifiable scripture, it doesn’t qualify and I am left a little short.

But don’t let my disappointment that detract from reading this excellent story. God and good deeds jump off the webpage, just from between the lines. Perhaps it's another causality of the web editor's pen. (I know, sometimes I need one.)

Whatever, read this article. Good job, Kyle!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

First article of the New Year …

Comes with a bang and I found it in the “Most Popular” section of the website. The article, entitled, “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?,” written by Molly Worthen is about Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington.

(I must point out that this is not “the” Mars Hill Church, which I attend virtually through Pastor Rob Bell’s podcasts and audio books. The Mars Hill Church is in Grandville, Michigan, although you can download Mark Driscoll’s podcasts from iTunes U too.)

Worthen writes:
Mark Driscoll’s sermons are mostly too racy to post on GodTube, the evangelical Christian “family friendly” video-posting Web site. With titles like “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse,” his clips do not stand a chance against the site’s content filters. No matter: YouTube is where Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, would rather be. Unsuspecting sinners who type in popular keywords may suddenly find themselves face to face with a husky-voiced preacher in a black skateboarder’s jacket and skull T-shirt. An “Under 17 Requires Adult Permission” warning flashes before the video cuts to evening services at Mars Hill, where an anonymous audience member has just text-messaged a question to the screen onstage: “Pastor Mark, is masturbation a valid form of birth control?”

Driscoll doesn’t miss a beat: “I had one guy quote Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.’ ” The audience bursts out laughing. Next Pastor Mark is warning them about lust and exalting the confines of marriage, one hand jammed in his jeans pocket while the other waves his Bible. Even the skeptical viewer must admit that whatever Driscoll’s opinion of certain recreational activities, he has the coolest style and foulest mouth of any preacher you’ve ever seen.
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Discroll’s rough side comes through in the article and Worthen does a masterful job explaining his Neo-Calvinistic message and how appeals to Seattle's downtrodden, people not welcome in most churches. There is controversy, but there is also Gospel in this well written feature. And scripture cited to, so it qualifies for the Amy Writing Awards.

I don’t know; I’m torn on this article because I am decidedly not Calvinist, but I cannot say enough good things about Worthen’s writing.

How about this: Driscoll can keep preaching predestination (hey, it’s working), I’ll keep listening to Rob Bell’s messages about “grace and peace,” and Molly, you keep up the good journalism!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

ESPN the Magazine

Here is an article in this month’s ESPN the Magazine has an amazing amount of Christmas without any Santa. Written by Rick Riley, the subtitle says it all, “There are some games where cheering for the other side feels better than winning.

Riley writes:
They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.
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Riley doesn’t dwell on the fact that the opposing team was Grapevine Faith "Christian" School in Grapevine, Texas (I don't think Christian was mentioned one time), or that, obviously, their acts of grace and kindness towards the Gainesville “maximum security students” were religiously motivated. He let their actions tell the story … a good sign of good writing.

This story moved me; it’s what we look for in the Amy Writing Awards, but unfortunately, the feature didn’t include an identifiable scripture, such as Hebrews 13:3: Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering (NIV).

Regardless, the article accomplished more than intended-- going beyond reporting to inspiring faith. Thank you, Rick Riley, for writing this excellent story.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good book review, doesn't qualify

Here is an article on the book, “Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion," in the Wall Street Journal, written by Vincent Carroll, editorial-page editor of the Rocky Mountain News.

Carroll writes in the December 22, 2008 Wall Street Journal edition:
In a jarring misreading of the Islamist mentality, the New York Times last month described a Jewish center in Mumbai, India, as the "unlikely target" of the terrorists who attacked various locations there. "It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen," the Times went on to declare, "or if it was an accidental hostage scene."

Paul Marshall would not be surprised by such stunningly naïve statements. In "Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion" -- a collection of essays that he edited with Lela Gilbert and Roberta Green Ahmanson -- he notes that similar assertions have been common in the coverage of Islamic terrorism. The book's contributors explore all sorts of news stories with a religious component -- Islamic and otherwise -- showing where reporters have veered off course and discussing the reasons why.
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Although well written, Carroll’s article isn’t the type of journalism the Amy Writing Awards intends to recognize because it doesn’t include identifiable scripture and doesn’t promote a faith-based world view, only criticizes secular ones.

What his article does exceptionally well is identify why we have the Amy Writing Awards and this blog— that is, to promote knowledge representation of faith-based issues. To quote the Amy Foundation’s website:
The Amy Foundation Writing Awards program is designed to recognize creative, skillful writing that applies in a sensitive, thought-provoking manner the biblical principles to issues affecting the world today, with an emphasis on discipling.

To be eligible, submitted articles must be published in a secular, non-religious publication (either printed or online) and must be reinforced with at least one passage of scripture.
Please don’t get me wrong, Carroll’s article is important because it demonstrates the need for more informed faith-based journalism, but it had the potential for excellent, in terms of Amy Writing Award entries, if it had turned from its sharp, accurate criticism to indentify why it is important to properly cover such issues, possibly providing an example of when mainstream media gets it right (and it does frequently). What’s more, it highlights a resource, Paul Marshall’s "Blind Spot: …

I just wanted biblical truth and journalism’s sword in the same 950-word opinion.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

100 blog posts and counting (12-18-08)

This marks the 100th post on "The Best Christian Journalism on the Web" blog, which the Amy Foundation started a couple years ago to recognize good faith-based journalism with the hope of boosting Amy Writing Award submissions.

Well, mission accomplished. Last year, award entry submissions were up 25 percent and this year entries were up 7 percent with two months to go.

Along the way we found dozens of well written articles that qualified and a number that should have, but didn't (they missed by not including a piece of identifiable scripture). We also learned a great deal about online publication and, in 2008, we expanded the Amy Writing Awards to include qualifying entries that were only published online.

The plan is to continue blogging, possibly adding other contributors, all with the goal of connecting with more writers who connect with more readers by sharing their faith in print-- whether published in ink or pixels.

Thanks for reading.

Interesting Debate in Newsweek

Newsweek organized a debate between Rick Warren, best selling Christian pastor, and Sam Harris, an up-and-coming apologist for Atheism. The excerpt-based article, titled “The God Debate,” starts this way:
The latest NEWSWEEK poll shows that 91 percent of American adults surveyed believe in God—and nearly half reject the theory of evolution. Also, Americans on John Edwards and the Senate's goal for troop withdrawal.

Rick Warren is as big as a bear, with a booming voice and easygoing charm. Sam Harris is compact, reserved and, despite the polemical tone of his books, friendly and mild. Warren, one of the best-known pastors in the world, started Saddleback in 1980; now 25,000 people attend the church each Sunday. Harris is softer-spoken; paragraphs pour out of him, complex and fact-filled—as befits a Ph.D. student in neuroscience. At NEWSWEEK's invitation, they met in Warren's office recently and chatted, mostly amiably, for four hours.
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The conversation is long and illuminating. I was disappointed to find the article did not qualify for the Amy Writing Awards, although the article comes close on internet webpage 7 when Warren quoted Jesus when he said, “I am the only way to God. I am the way to the Father.” Close paraphrase, but not close enough.

Still, the dialogue, which gets testy at times, is interesting. Give it a read!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A funny Op Ed in the NY Times

I didn’t go looking for this article, it found me— “On a Ring and a Prayer,” New York Times, 11/25/08, written by Seth Freeman.

Freeman writes:

PLEASE listen carefully as this menu has changed.

For English press or say “One.” Para español oprima o diga “Dos.” For all other languages press or say “Three.”


Thank you for your interest in our service. If this is a true spiritual emergency, please hang up and dial the number on the upper left-hand corner of the mailing label of your last solicitation. Otherwise, please stay on the line and your prayers will be
answered in the order in which they were received.

All right, let’s get started. For prayers of repentance press or say “Two.” For prayers of supplication press or say “Three.” For prayers of forgiveness press or say “Four.” For prayers of serenity press or say “Five.” For all other prayers press or say “Six.”
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This funny piece doesn’t qualify for the Amy Writing Awards because “... Vengeance is mine.” isn’t properly attributed to scripture (Romans 12:19 KJV), but it is a humorous piece. Given all the negativity that Op Ed pages printed over the past several months, pro- and anti-faith, this opinion is a pleasant surprise-- a spiritually-inspired note that makes readers laugh.

I'm just glad God doesn't use an answering service.

Thank you, Seth Freeman, for writing this.

Monday, November 24, 2008

God and Sex in the same article in the New York Times

Okay, I admit it: I wasn’t drawn to this article because I was looking for qualifying Amy Writing Award entries. With a title of “Pastor’s Advice for Better Marriage: More Sex,” it is not surprising that Gretel Kovach’s article topped today's “Most Popular” list on the New York Times website.

Kovach writes:
And on the seventh day, there was no rest for married couples. A week after the Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives among his flock of 20,000 to strengthen their unions through Seven Days of Sex, his advice was — keep it going.

Mr. Young, an author, a television host and the pastor of the evangelical Fellowship Church, issued his call for a week of “congregational copulation” among married couples on Nov. 16, while pacing in front of a large bed. Sometimes he reclined on the paisley coverlet while flipping through a Bible, emphasizing his point that it is time for the church to put God back in the bed.

“Today we’re beginning this sexperiment, seven days of sex,” he said, with his characteristic mix of humor, showmanship and Scripture. “How to move from whining about the economy to whoopee!”
Kovach’s article is more than provocative; it deals with the real life struggle many marriages face— the lack of intimacy. The mainstream media typically portrays great sex as extra-material and separated from the friendship and shared faith a marriage can and should become. God intended when he designed marriage for our enjoyment (and his glory) and that is the message this article shares with the world.

The feature article in the “U.S.” section does include scripture (2/3rds of the way down and provided as a reference in support of the story’s protagonists, Rev. Ed Young and his wife), so it does qualify for the Amy Writing Awards.

I have to say its nice to read a pro-Christian news article about sex that is favorable to a pastor. That isn’t always the case.

Thank you, Gretel Kovach, for a sensational article. I hope to see it in the early rounds of the 2008 Amy Writing Awards. Please send in all your qualifying entries, and don’t delay. The postmark deadline is January 31, 2008— just 67 days away.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Excellent Veteran's Day feature (that doesn't qualify)

Here is a very well-written article on two military chaplains that is a “must read,” and I don’t say that very often. The timely feature, published today, on Veteran’s Day, is written by Troy Moon in the Pensacola News Journal, entitled, “Faith in the face of war.”

Moon writes:
Two 50-something Episcopal priests at different St. John's churches in Rhode Island are sent to the Middle East to serve as military chaplains.

One serves as a Navy chaplain at a combat-support hospital in Kuwait. The other serves as an Army chaplain at military prisons in Iraq.

Less than three years after they're finished with their active-duty service, they end up at Episcopal churches in Pensacola, some six miles apart.

The Rev. C. Neal Goldsborough and the Rev. Jeffrey A. Jencks emerged from combat with similar perspectives: They firmly believe they have seen God — and his dark counterpart — on the blood-soaked battlefields and field hospitals of the Middle East.

It's Veterans Day, and the two priests say it's important that Americans remember that the sacrifice we ask of our young men and women overseas isn't just a physical sacrifice.
The piece is full of God’s grace and truth, but unfortunately, I don’t see where Moon included identifiable scripture. Had it, I am sure we would see this article in the later rounds of the Amy Writing Awards. I am going to write Moon and tell him “job well done” and see if he has other articles that do qualify for this year’s awards program.

Keep up the good work, Troy!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Qualifying Article from Red Bluff Daily News (CA)

Here is an well-written online article, entitled “God Talk: The cares of life,” written by Larry Jensen, published on The Red Bluff Daily News.

Jensen writes:
In this day and age you don't have to look long, or go very far to find the cares of life. The cares of this life can rise up and consume you very quickly. You can be going through life and everything is just going great and the next thing you know, you find yourself overwhelmed by all kinds of life's issues. The cares of this world can take on a lot of different forms. The economy, gas prices, the increase of day-to-day living, relationships, marriage, family, friends, health problems, cancer, flu, diabetes, migraines. The list can go on and on.

Jesus said in John 16:33, "In this world we will have tribulation [trials, distress, frustration], but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!" We will all face the issues of life. The question is what are you going to do when you're faced with a trial? If you're walking with God you can be of good cheer ­ Why? Because Jesus said that he has overcome the world! Jesus overcame the world when he hung on the cross and paid the price for our redemption.

As a Christian, it is very liberating to know that whatever is going on around you, no matter how intense or huge the issue is, we serve the God who created the heavens and earth and He is well able to take good care of us.
While this article is a little heavy on scripture (qualifying the article for the Amy Writing Awards), Jensen’s personal approach to drawing the reader in works for me. With all the crises in the world today, Jesus’ message is even more relevant, and Jensen does a good job sharing God’s truth and the importance of personal faith in troubling times.

Keep up the good work, Larry Jensen!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Article deals with current events and avoids getting political ...

Pastor Steve DeYoung, in a Contra Costa Times article entitled “A good time to put faith in God,” writes:

The election season is upon us, with much at stake concerning the direction of our country. The moral fiber of our country seems to be crumbling, the economy is worse than it's been in many years, and few seem to be confident about the future. Democrats and Republicans alike feel the only hope is if their party wins.

But is there more at stake than just the election of a president or the passing of a few propositions? I believe there is more going on than meets the eye!

The Bible says in Hebrews 12:26-27: "At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, `Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens."' The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken - that is; created things - so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

It’ is a short article, by Amy Writing Award definition, but I appreciate how DeYoung draws in the reader using current events and deftly applies scripture to the worry and concern caused by the recent financial turmoil. It includes identifiable scripture, so it qualifies.

I’ll write DeYoung and let him know.

Keep writing, Steve!