New $1.1 Million Grant to Help Support Samford’s Center for Worship and the Arts

New $1.1 Million Grant to Help Support Samford’s Center for Worship and the Arts

Education Extra

Animate is one of the programs at Samford University’s Center for the Worship and the Arts. The five-day worship leadership program is for teenagers and their adult mentors. Animate 2018 is June 25-29 and registration is open, www.samford.edu/go/animate

Samford University has received an additional $1.1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to further the work of the Center for Worship and the Arts. Housed in Samford’s School of the Arts, the center is advancing the conversation about teenage worshippers and teenage worship leaders.

The founding director of the Center for Worship and the Arts, Eric Mathis arrived at Samford in 2010. He holds a bachelor of music from Wheaton College, a master of music and master of divinity from Baylor University and George W. Truett Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. “We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for its support of our work and our mission as we equip congregations to build bridges between student ministry and worship ministry,” Mathis said.  “Through programs, research, and scholarship, we are creating a national platform for conversations about the relationship between youth ministry and worship ministry, and we believe this conversation is important for the church and the work of God in the world.” Founded as anima in 2013 with the help of a grant from the Christ Is Our Salvation (C.I.O.S.) Foundation, the program recently revised its name to the Center for Worship and the Arts. Animate, its flagship summer worship leadership program retains its current identity.

The center is celebrating its fifth anniversary and launching several new initiatives thanks to the additional grant, Mathis said. New program highlights are a Worship Leader Boot Camp for teenagers, allowing youth ministers and worship leaders to jump start their fall programming with teenage youth worship leaders; Student Worship Cohorts which will develop a deeper relationship with congregations participating in Animate; Student Worship Innovators which will engage church leaders in creating new resources for student worship; and new writing projects, including a book by Mathis under contract with Baker Academic Publishing. The center continues to provide online resources, an online certificate program with expanded goals and its summer program, Animate.

Other center team members include Tracy Hanrahan, Program Director; Kara Young, Coordinator of Promotion and Engagement; and three Faculty Fellows: Emily Andrews, Instructor of Church Music and Worship Leadership; Joe Cory, Associate Professor of Art; and Chuck Stokes, Associate Professor of Sociology. To learn more about the Center for the Worship and the Arts: cwa@samford.edu, 205-726-4525, @samfordcwa †

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Taziki’s Keith Richards

Taziki’s Keith Richards

Jesus, Others and Yourself: Taziki’s Keith Richards

Keith Richards began his restaurant career cooking chicken in a K-Mart kitchen and waiting tables at Olive Garden. Today he serves as Chief Development Officer for Taziki’s, which he founded in 1998 with an original location off Highway 280 in Birmingham.

After a vacation to Greece in 1997, Keith Richards was inspired to recreate the same richness of community he experienced there in his home town of Birmingham. Opening his first Taziki’s restaurant in 1998 was a leap of faith quickly bolstered by the idea of giving back. Now with locations in 17 different states, Richards reflects on how his Christian upbringing contributed to his drive to succeed and his commitment to employing and inspiring special needs teens and young adults in the communities he serves.

Growing Up in Birmingham. An alumnus of Green Acres Elementary, Charles A. Brown Middle School, and Midfield High School, Richards grew up in Ensley and says his strongest memories of childhood involve being outdoors. “Back then, of course, we had no devices that would distract us,” he remembers. “We had an area called The Trails where we rode our bikes and shot BB guns and chased squirrels and went to the Boys and Girls Club. That’s all we did—that and play baseball. Church on Sundays. It’s almost like a country song.” Richards’ family attended Fairview United Methodist Church, and as far back as he can remember, every store in Ensley was closed for Sunday services. “Sunday was the Sabbath, and that was the day we went to Sunday School, went to what we called Big Church, and then at night we would have youth group.” Even on vacations, Richards says his family would find a place to worship.

In his teens, Richards worked at Camp Sumatanga, an experience that strengthened his faith and gave him a taste of servanthood and pointing others to God. “During those impressionable years—16, 17, 18 years old when some teens are starting to wonder—it grounded me even more.” His contributions to the spiritual growth of his campers, he says, was primarily directing them toward the Lord revealed in nature. “Scripture is so important, but my perspective was more of look what God has given us.

Keith and Amy Richards married twice in 1992—once at Peavine Falls at Oak Mountain State Park with a preacher but no paperwork, then again six months later at Canterbury United Methodist Church. They opened their first Taziki’s restaurant 20 years ago with the mission “to create an environment that combines extraordinary food with the meaningful human connection missing from much of society today — all to help people achieve a deeper, more sustaining form of happiness.”

Richards’ father, Joe Richards turned 79 this past November, and inside his birthday card Keith Richards wrote, “Thanks for being my hero.” “He’s the one I strive to be like, not only with his faith but with his heart, his goodness,” Richards says, noting that his mother passed away nearly six years ago. “We had a Bible School class at church growing up, and it was the J.O.Y. class. It stands for Jesus, Others and Yourself. That has always stuck with me. I saw my parents live that.”

Growing a Business. After jobs at a Kmart cafeteria and Olive Garden followed by a 10-year career at Bottega under award-winning Chef Frank Stitt, Richards and his wife used their home as collateral to build his first Taziki’s location off Highway 280. Richards reflects on how his parents’ example served as inspiration. “My father was a telephone lineman for South Central Bell / BellSouth, and I knew what hard work looked like. It was a leap of faith… We didn’t have the money. There wasn’t an option. We could not fail,” he recalls of Taziki’s beginnings. “Ultimately, however, the challenge was how do we start giving back? That was the first thing to do. How do we get into the community to let people know we are here and who we are? Faith has a lot to do with that. You pray for success; sometimes it doesn’t come, sometimes it does, but prayer and hard work is a great combination to reap rewards.”

Giving Back. Giving back for Richards started with a chance meeting with Shelby County Schools Job Coach Cindy Vinson while on a cruise vacation. Bored with the band playing one evening on the ship, on a whim Keith offered to stand in as a drummer. An experienced musician, while he jammed on stage, Amy Richards struck up a conversation with Vinson, who was sitting nearby. Vinson asked if Taziki’s would consider employment for students with special needs. The Richards said “Yes,” and since then Taziki’s has been helping local students and young adults with challenges realize their potential, earn a paycheck, relate to peers, and be a part of a team. Richards adds that meaningful employment also meant relief, in a way, for the students’ parents. “Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to the challenges that the parents of children with special needs have. Today, if I can allow that parent 12-15 hours a week to pray, yoga, tennis, whatever their passion is, then I’ll do it.”

“They say God works in mysterious ways,” Keith Richard says of he and wife Amy being the parents of two sets of twins, one conceived with the assistance of fertility specialists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and another conceived naturally. “I think it was just something that God said you’re doing something right in your life, and I’m going to bless you again.” Seen here are Keith, Amy, Oliver (15), Charley (13), Margaux (13), and Maggie (15). Photo: Bernard Troncale

The Richards and Vinson also began the H.O.P.E. (Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment) program in 2012, which purchases herbs for Taziki’s restaurants grown by special needs students at area schools. Being taught how to grow, harvest and sell cilantro, rosemary, thyme, parsley and rosemary gives the students opportunities to practice social skills, learn the value of money, set goals, and follow through with plans. Richards is expanding the program to include at-risk students as well and hopes that in 2018 the program will become a nonprofit organization. He hopes that all of his friends in the Birmingham restaurant business will consider following his lead in cooking with locally grown herbs. “God has blessed me, and I’ve said a thousand times you have to give back. That’s the plan. That’s God’s plan. And, of course, I don’t do it for extra wing points or any kind of halo points. I do it because that’s the way that my parents raised me.”

Richards suggests that choosing to make 2018 a year for giving can be simple. It doesn’t require finding needs to meet worldwide. “In our own backyard, there are people that are hungry, people that don’t know Christ, people that are struggling on a daily basis that we can help,” says Richards. “Find something dear to your heart…what makes your heart flourish?”

 

  • Camille Smith Platt 

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Gracious Housing & the Hope of Christ

Gracious Housing & the Hope of Christ

Brought to you by: Community Partner White Plume Technologies www.WhitePlume.com

Gracious Housing & the Hope of Christ: Red Mountain Grace 

Red Mountain Grace is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing gracious housing to out-of-town patients and caregivers during their extended medical stays in Birmingham. Members of the ministry team include Ashley Weaver/Development Assistant, Debbie Tidwell/Patient Coordinator and Lizzi Wilkerson/Executive Director. Learn more at www.redmountaingrace.com.

Through local volunteers and donors, Red Mountain Grace ministry provides extended housing for families who are receiving critical medical care in Birmingham. “The stress of a diagnosis alone is overwhelming for families,” explains Red Mountain Grace, Executive Director, Lizzi Wilkerson, “But then the added stresses, complications, and expenses of extended travel for patient care often amount to a sense of hopelessness, further complicated by the disconcerting feeling of temporary homelessness.” Wilkerson stresses the ministry meets much more than a physical need. “We are able to not only help these families by relieving them of some of their financial burden, but we are able to meet them in a very difficult place where we can pray over them and give them continued hope.” Volunteers work behind the scene to make the ministry possible. “They clean and decorate apartments, provide meals for the families, visit them and their loved ones in the hospital weekly, and are continually praying over them,” explains Wilkerson.

Since opening its doors in August of 2013, Red Mountain Grace has welcomed over 200 families. The organization has grown from 2 to 12 apartments, and is looking to expand to 15-20 in 2018. “I see the love of God surrounding these families in some of the hardest moments and I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to love our patients and their families the way we do,” says Wilkerson pointing out that just last year, Red Mountain Grace served more than 70 families, but the need is even greater and growing. On average, there is a wait list of 30-40 families nightly seeking lodging that are in Birmingham for medical care. To learn more about Red Mountain Grace and the many ways you can volunteer to help visit www.redmountaingrace.com. †

Brought to you by: Community Partner White Plume Technologies, www.WhitePlume.com

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Faith In Action in 2018

Faith In Action in 2018

Encouraging Word

What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen.” Faith is the foundation that hope is built on. Hope is the desire for good, accompanied by anticipation and expectation. Hope helps provide meaning to life. The struggles of life can be overwhelming when there is no hope. Hope helps provide the motivation to continue when you feel like giving up. And where there is no faith or faulty faith; hope will be difficult to find.

Faith involves, belief, trust, confidence and dependence. Faith is a powerful thing. Faith is the foundation that forms your belief system. Your belief system determines your values and convictions. You use your convictions to help make choices and decisions in life. Your life style (how you live your life) is conditioned by what you believe and the object of your faith. Belief should mean “by life”; in other words, if you don’t live it, then you don’t believe it.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  God needs to be the object of our faith. We must place our faith solely and completely in Him!

If we say we believe in God then we need to live like there is a God; knowing that God is real, alive and well- realizing that God is holy, sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present. He is infinite, eternal, immortal, infallible and immeasurable. He loves us and adopts us into His family as we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Almighty God becomes our Heavenly Father. Praise the Lord!

Let me encourage you to walk by faith and not by sight. Place your faith in God and live out your faith as a “Christ follower.” Put your faith in action in 2018!

-Tony Cooper 

Celebrating 27 Years of Service as Exec. Director, Jimmie Hale Mission

www.jimmiehalemission.com

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YOU in 2018: What are your priorities?

YOU in 2018: What are your priorities?

Bringing Out the Winner

2018 is upon us. Everyone is thinking about their New Year’s Resolutions, and I’m sure you’ve heard, “I’m going to stop…” or more commonly, “I’m going to start…” It’s the checklist we commonly create this time every year.

I have an idea. Instead of making an annual checklist of different actions, directions or resolutions, why not focus on a list of priorities that can become a part of your life all year long – every day of your life from now on? The list should look something like this:

1) You and God

2) You

3) You and your spouse

4) You and your children

5) You and EVERYTHING ELSE!

Notice the first word in each is YOU! May 2018 be the year that you allow God to work in your life because this is the year you sincerely ask God to change you. If you do, I guarantee that you will see marked improvement in every one of your priorities. Why? Because God desires to make you better! He promised, “I will create a new heart within you.” He’s just waiting on you to ask.

John Croyle, Founder, Big Oak Ranch 

Author, Who You Are/Defying the Circumstances that Define Us, Bringing Out the Winner in Your Child, The Two Minute Drill to Manhood and Raising a Princess, www.bigoak.org

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Time with God in 2018: A Fruitful Connection

Time with God in 2018: A Fruitful Connection

Special Feature

When You said, “Seek My face,”

My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” 

Psalms 27:8

The scriptures, especially the Psalms of David, are replete with references about spending time in communion with God. Most believers don’t have to be persuaded of the importance of a regular, healthy devotional life, but many would admit to an inconsistency in the practice. This is no small oversight. Time with God, in His Word and in prayer, is not merely a quaint practice, but a necessity to living a fruitful life.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Jesus makes it clear that just as the branch is dependent upon the nourishment from the vine to bear fruit, so too our fruitfulness as believers is dependent upon our connection with Him. The Amplified Bible is even more explicit: “However, apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b Amplified Bible).

In Psalm 42:1, David wrote, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.” It’s clear that David put a premium on seeking God. We, on the other hand, live in a society that values industry. In fact, we see being busy as a mark of value and importance. However, as believers it is crucial that we see the distinction between busyness and fruitfulness. The fact is, some of us are too busy to be fruitful. Busyness is activity in response to life’s demands, whether it’s paying bills, running the kids to soccer practice, or doing the grocery shopping. Many of these responsibilities are necessary, of course, but if we think they’re more important than spending time in God’s presence, we’re sadly mistaken. Busyness will never replace fruitfulness, for fruitfulness only comes from nurturing that vital connection with Christ. The truth is that for most of us, it’s not a matter of not having the time, but of making the time. It’s an issue of priorities.

Sometimes for a tree to be fruitful, the extraneous branches have to be trimmed off so the life and vitality of the tree can be redirected to the larger, fruit-bearing branches. The same can be true of us. If we’ll allow God to trim off some of the busyness from our lives and give ourselves to spending time in fellowship with Him, we will see a marked increase in the fruitfulness in our lives. A Bible reading program or a good devotional can be a great help to give us structure, but the primary tool needed to cultivate a good devotional life is a firm dedication to be intentional about giving God the place in our lives that is His due. Join me in making 2018 a year of daily, intentional time with God. I can’t wait to see what He chooses to do through such a fruitful connection!

-Dr. Randy Lane Bunch 

Church planter, pastor, and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. Author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World, available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, or Apple iBooks. For more information about Randy’s ministry, visit www.randylanebunch.org.

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Photo Fun with Daniel Cason

Photo Fun with Daniel Cason

Photo Fun 

“God’s Love in Action!”

Eye exams, haircuts, a delicious meal, and groceries were just a few of the ways Daniel Cason ministries recently helped those in need in our community. Learn more at www.danielcason.org .

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College Choice:  Essential Questions for Christians

College Choice: Essential Questions for Christians

Education Extra

Dr. Roger Parrott is in his 20th year as President of Belhaven University. He is a third-generation College president, and was one of America’s youngest college presidents first elected at age 34. He earned his Ph.D. from the Univ. of Maryland in Higher Education Administration.

The intense competition for recruiting university students has masked the reality of ever-worsening diluted and polluted values in higher education. The unfortunate result of not knowing the real story is that far too many smart Christians have been duped into making dumb college decisions. Students and families are fooled by name-brand marketing campaigns, as well as the glamor of campus amenities and prestige rankings. Or, too often, Christian families buy the naïve assumption that any school will do, as long as you attend a good Bible study or church near-by.

I’m deeply concerned that smart Christian families are being swayed to follow culture’s value of higher education – Size, Sports, Status, and Sizzle – rather than the Godly criteria that would help students find the school that best matches their needs. In contrast, at Belhaven University, our focus is Character, Curriculum, Caring, and Christ.

The typical criteria of college selection are highly inadequate for Christian families to make a well-informed university decision:

  1. Most families reference US News rankings, but don’t realize those scores are skewed in favor of the type of institutions the editors attended.
  2. All students study the quality of academic programs, but forget to examine as carefully the character of the individual who does the teaching, as well as the curriculum that guides the learning.
  3. Some parents urge students to consider enrolling where they attended a quarter-century ago, but don’t realize that while the university campus may look the same on the outside, the worldview in the classroom has dramatically shifted.
  4. Research tells us too many students make their decision within seven-minutes after they get out of the car for a campus tour, thus, deciding on the appearance of the campus.
  5. Often families base this direction-shaping decision on money. And while that is an important factor, this critical juncture of life is too important to be guided only by the prospect of saving money in the short-term.

While the attractiveness of size, sports, status, and sizzle may appear enticing, Christian families need to weigh the alarming realities of both campus-life and classroom-life at flagship universities before making their decision about which school to attend. Character, curriculum, caring, and Christ won’t be featured on ESPN’s College Game Day, but they will be the priorities giving lasting significance to a university education that effectively prepares students for a life of service and meaning. I have awarded over 10,000 diplomas during my years as a university president and have worked with thousands of families making this critical decision. Learning from their experience, I’ve written a paper outlining better criterion for selecting a school, and I’d like to email a copy of it to you if you’re interested in knowing more:  president@Belhaven.edu

Roger Parrott

President, Belhaven University, www.Belhaven.edu

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Best Books: Eric Motley

Best Books: Eric Motley

Madison Park

Author Eric Motley earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Philosophy from Samford University. As Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, he managed the appointment process in the White House for over 1,200 presidentially-appointed advisory board and commission positions. He currently serves as Exec. V.P. and Corporate Secretary of the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit think tank. Author Photo: Tony Powell

Around 1880, a group of freed slaves purchased some land not far from Montgomery, Ala. Named after one of its founders, Madison Park became a refuge surrounded by the harsh realities of the deep South. Generations later, a young black man raised in this small town began a journey of faith. Mentored by his family, teachers, and the church, Eric Motley went to Samford University, where he thrived and matured in both grace and knowledge. He went to Scotland to continue his education and thereafter accepted a position in the White House, serving as the youngest special assistant to President George W. Bush.

Madison Park (Zondervan, $24.99) is Eric’s story, but it is also a tribute to the adoptive grandparents who raised him, to the teachers who nurtured him, and to the ministers who boldly proclaimed the word of God to the people of God. It is a tribute to professors and fellow students, politicians and businessmen, and to the many poets, musicians, and authors who, even after death, deeply influenced Eric’s life.

Madison Park is an expression of gratitude to God and His people. As a people of faith, we not only live in hope for what God will do, but also live in remembrance of what God has done. The Jewish observance of Passover and the Christian rite of Communion are calls to remembrance. We are not called to do this alone, but as a community, a holy people who collectively acknowledge our salvation history. We gather to tell our children and our children’s children that God has acted and we have been saved. By love, we become the beloved community. By faith, we become a great cloud of witnesses. By grace, we become Madison Park.

Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster

205-663-2370

 

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