Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground premieres this Sunday (2/19) @ 9:00 PM (ET) on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

In this weekend’s special delivery, guest starring three-time Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’, the postal investigators charged with connecting lost letters with their intended recipients attempt to reunite a New Orleans blues singer/songwriter with the love of his life who, going missing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, never received his heartfelt love letter.

Meanwhile, HM&M  has just delivered welcome news to fans of the series — announcing  that it has ordered three additional films to  go into production this year. 

In announcing the renewal, Hallmark Executive Vice President of Programming Michelle Vicary said “It is an honor to continue our relationship with Martha Williamson and to continue bringing her brand of rich and poignant stories to viewers with this beloved franchise.”

The series is the creation of Martha Williamson (Touched by an Angel) who says “In a world of rapid tweets, stories that celebrate the thoughtfully written letter are more meaningful than ever.”

Signed, Sealed, Delivered began its TV life in 2013 as a top-rated backdoor pilot on the Hallmark Channel. It went on to run as a weekly series on Hallmart  The next year it launched as a weekly series before moving to sister network HM&M where, including this Sunday’s edition, it has spun of eight movie-length episodes. As noted, at least three more are on the way.

The series is produced by Muse Entertainment in association with MoonWater Productions. Executive producers are Martha Williamson, Michael Prupas, Kevin Fair and Joel S. Rice. Kevin Fair directs.  Marcie Gold Jacoby, Brandi Harkonen and Allen Lewis are Co-Executive Producers. Harvey Khan is the producer.  Story by Martha Williamson & Brandi Harkonen. Teleplay by Martha Williamson. Created by Martha Williamson. 

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

Not into Fifty Shades Darker this Valentine’s Day? Try a horse of a different color: Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Dove Foundation-approved Race to Win stars Luke Perry (CW’s Riverdale) and Danielle Campbell (CW’s The Originals) hits the DVD market tomorrow (2/14). The film, directed by Tanielle Campbell (CW’s The Originals), arrived on Starz Digital last week.

Synopsis: Hannah Rhodes (Campbell) is faced with the biggest decision of her life when she loses her father, Gentry Rhodes (Perry). After Gentry suffers an apparent heart-attack, the Rhodes family is left to pick up the pieces and continue running the horse ranch Gentry had worked his entire life to build. Meanwhile, a local resident claims Gentry owes him thousands of dollars which the family does not have. Hannah and her family quickly become overwhelmed with the financial crisis that is upon them and unsure how they will pay off the debt without having to sell the ranch. She must find the strength to face her fears and compete in the race of her life or her family will lose everything.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

The delicate balance. Cardiothoracic surgeon/popular TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz looks at the relationship between the spirit, the mind and body as The Dr. Oz Show launches Faithful Fridays. The weekly segment runs through February with a panel that includes Hollywood producer DeVon Franklin (seen above), Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz, Priscilla Shirer of Going Beyond Ministries), and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President  Rev. Sammy Rodriguez.
Talking about what motivated him to launch the series, Dr. Oz says “Faith and spirituality don’t just live in a Sunday-sized compartment, or even weeklong just within the walls of a church building…It’s a thread through every aspect of life that makes life better—whether someone attends church or not.”
Before getting his own hit talk show, Dr. Mehmet Oz first gained fame as Oprah Winfrey’s go-to doc on her show. He still performs about a hundred cardiac surgeries each year and is a professor of surgery at Columbia University. He also directs the Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
BTW, Beliefnet named DeVon Franklin, who recently produced the hit film Miracles from Heaven,  one of the “Most Influential Christians Under 40.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

The Story of God Season 2 with Morgan Freeman premieres tonight (1/16) at 9:00 PM (ET) on  NatGeo.

The highest-rated series in the network’s history continues to explore humankind’s search to understand and relate to the Creator in a three-episode second season.

Each of the three episodes in the new season will explore a different major theme: “The Chosen One?” “Proof of God” and “Heaven and Hell.” In each episode Freeman meets with individuals, faith leaders, scientists and archaeologists to help him understand these big topics, including the following:

  • A 9-year-old boy in Minnesota who Tibetan monks believe is the reincarnation of a lama, a Buddhist spiritual teacher
  • Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the keeper of the sacred pipe of the Nakota, Lakota and Dakota tribes
  • Kenneth Bae, the American Christian missionary held captive for two years in North Korea
  • A woman whose heart stopped for more than eight minutes, who describes in great detail the feeling of heaven she had in that time
  • Theoretical physicist Ard Louis, who believes that you can find God in scientific knowledge. The deeper he goes into his studies, the more he sees signs of the divine.
  • A visit to a New Mexico church where followers worship by speaking in tongues
  • An archaeological excursion to the Dunbar caves in Tennessee to see recently discovered depictions of heaven and hell from ancient ancestors of the Cherokee

I had the opportunity to speak with Freeman who told me that while all religions are different, it’s also remarkable how similar they are though also radically different– virtually of them, for instance, offer some sort of representation of what happens after death (the subject of next week’s episode). Freeman says last season’s episodes (as evidenced by the ratings) were overwhelmingly well-received by the audience.

Season two episodes are the following:

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman: The Chosen One

Premieres Monday, Jan. 16, at 9/8c

Almost every faith has a figure its followers think was chosen by God. Muslims have Muhammad. Christians have Jesus. Jews have Abraham and Moses. Why do we rally around these chosen ones and how do they guide our faith? Morgan Freeman goes in search of the chosen people walking the earth today, including an American boy from the suburbs who is believed to be the reincarnation of a Buddhist lama who has been returning in different bodies for almost five hundred years.

 The Story of God with Morgan Freeman: Heaven and Hell

Premieres Monday, Jan. 23, at 9/8c

What are heaven and hell? Do they await us in the afterlife or are they here and now? People of all faiths and backgrounds have contemplated these conundrums for thousands of years. Morgan Freeman sets out to learn how these unseen places have changed the way we live, by descending into the ancient Native American underworld, investigating the phenomena of exorcisms and the gift of tongues, and meeting a woman who believes she has seen heaven.

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman: Proof of God

Premieres Monday, Jan. 30, at 9/8c

Have we cut God out of our modern lives or are there still special moments when the divine breaks through and makes its presence known? Morgan Freeman meets a man who felt God’s presence on Sept. 11, learns how Muslims hear God’s voice in the Quran, comes across a tribe whose members believe they can channel the healing power of the divine and encounters a physicist who has faith that science will lead him to God.

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman is produced by Revelations Entertainment for National Geographic. For Revelations Entertainment, Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary and James Younger are executive producers. For National Geographic, Michael J. Miller is executive producer; Kevin Tao Mohs is vice president, production and development; and Tim Pastore is president, original programming and production.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman  Season 1 on DVD January 10, 2017 and Season 2 premiers on National Geographic, January 16th.