Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

The faith-based film powerhouse Pure Flix is announcing an Easter weekend release for God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness.

The third film of the financially-successful GND franchise filmed on location in Little Rock, Arkansas and stars David A.R. White and Shane Harper returning to their roles in the original film. New to the cast are John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Ted McGinley (Married with Children), Jennifer Taylor (Two and a Half Men) and Tatum O’Neal (Paper Moon).

Plot Synopsis:

GOD’S NOT DEAD: Pastor Dave (David A.R. White) faces tragedy when his church, located on the grounds of the local university, is burned down.
Literally adding insult to injury, his plan to rebuild faces an unexpected setback when university reject the idea on grounds that the church is no longer relevant in today’s society. Trusting in the motto that he has lived by that “God is good all the time,” Pastor Dave enlists the legal help of his estranged attorney brother Pearce (John Corbett) who is an atheist. As they work together, they come to understand that not every victory requires defeating the opposition, and there is a greater win when you heal and rebuild with compassion and respect for others.

FYI: Moviegoers can follow the film on the official web site at, on Facebook at, or on Twitter @GodsNotDeadFilm.

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

Here’s the latest dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

With the passing of Della Reese, Touched by an Angel executive producer Martha Williamson had this sent my way to share with Beliefnet readers.

“When you walk down the road
Heavy burden, heavy load
I will rise and I will walk with you
Walk with you
‘Til the sun don’t shine
Walk with you every time
Believe me
I will walk with you…”
“Touched By An Angel” theme song

Della Reese was a brilliantly funny and profoundly moving actor, an unforgettably talented, mesmerizing singer, a savvy talk-show host, a dedicated
minister, and the star of a top-ten television hit. But most of all, she was an undeniable one-woman enterprise selling one precious product – the fierce love of an ever-loving God whom she lived to serve and share. And she shared that unshakeable faith of hers wherever she walked – onto a film set, into an elevator, down an airport concourse or a grocery store aisle. If you saw Della Reese heading your way, you knew something was going to change.

It’s the way she walked into a room that I will remember most. There was the room before Della entered. And then it was us in Della’s room. If the sheer magnitude of her powerful presence wasn’t enough to announce her arrival, there was always the liberal bestowing of hugs and blessings. “God bless you today.” “God bless you today.” “God bless you today.” And when Della said it, it wasn’t a greeting,
it was a command – an exhortation to stop and acknowledge that you were, in fact,
blessed, so you’d better shape up and live like it.

Once, on the set of “Touched By An Angel,” a guest star found himself unable to continue shooting an emotionally-charged “revelation” scene in which Della’s character, Tess, reveals herself as an angel with a message of forgiveness from God. When I took the actor aside, he broke into tears and said he’d just spent two years writing a play to promote atheism, and in the space of twenty minutes performing one scene on camera with Della Reese, his entire belief system had been shaken. “I may have just wasted two years of my life. That woman really believes. And I’m
starting to believe her.”

Della Reese stepped into the role of Tess with the natural ease that the rest of us step into a favorite pair of slippers. Sharing the good news of God’s love was as comfortable and familiar to her as walking and talking and breathing. And yet, her pitch-perfect portrayal for nine years of a no-nonsense, straight-talking, uncompromising angel was formed over decades of struggle and sacrifice and single-minded determination to beat the odds.

During a career that spanned seven decades, through wars and civil rights, hardship and success, she survived. She survived the days when a black woman could sing in a luxury hotel but wasn’t allowed to stay there. She survived life threatening injuries and a devastating stroke. She survived heartbreaking personal and professional loss. And through it all, she steadfastly held to her faith that she was born with a purpose to fulfill and that each step she took in this life would never be taken alone.

What a blessing that for nine years we got to walk along with her as she and her beloved angel daughter Roma Downey reminded the world every Sunday night that excellence isn’t easy, that love is a choice and must be fought for and defended with truth and integrity and faith. And, of course, that God loves you.

“God bless you today” as you remember Della. And know that even now, she is walking where she was always planning to walk forever – alongside her Creator.
With love,
Martha Williamson


Here’s the latest dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media:

Trailer Station:

This weekend: In Sony Pictures Animation’s The Star, a small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a loveable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become unlikely heroes in the greatest story ever told — the first Christmas.

Wednesday, November 22/Thanksgiving – The Man Who Invented Christmas

The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to thecreation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the
holiday season into the celebration we know today.

Mini-review: I previewed this one with my sister. We agreed it was charming and entertaining. A nice holiday film. Recommended.

Coming: Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 – Forever My Girl

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

An amazing story of answered prayer. When Joyce Smith’s 14-year-old adopted son John fell through an icy lake in Missouri one winter morning three years ago, if could have been a tragic ending to a life cut short. Instead, it was the beginning of a miracle he, his mother Joyce and their pastor Jason Noble of First Assembly Church in St. Peters, MO grippingly shared with me earlier this week. They were in New York City to promote The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and a Child’s Resurrection (FaithWords/Hachette Book Group), Joyce’s just-published book (written with co-writer Ginger Kolbara) recounting the amazing story.  A dramatic film is already in the works to be helmed by producer DeVon Franklin (The Star, Miracles from Heaven, Heaven is for Real).

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Joyce.

JWK: What happened that day?

JOYCE SMITH: The day before, John had had a basketball game. Their team won. It was kind of a pivotal game for them. So, the boys wanted to have a party that night. The next day there were off from school for Martin Luther King Day which was a Monday…So, the day of (the accident)…I was going to pick John up. So, I was expecting a call from his friend’s mom…I didn’t know that the kids had gone out (to play) on the ice again (as they did the previous night). It had warmed up quite a bit. So, I called John first to see if he wanted to go to our local rec-plex to practice basketball. He said “yes.”….He no sooner hung up –because he walks and talks sometimes — then he went out on the ice where it got really thin. As soon as he hung up, the ice broke beneath him.  He fell in, he and his other friend. The other (friend) came over and tried to rescue them and help but all three ended up in (the water). Finally, one of the boys was able to self rescue, leaving John and his other friend still in the water. The ice around them as they were trying to get out was breaking off in chunks and cutting up their arms. The water was only about 40 degrees and hypothermia was starting to set in. So John and his friend tried to help each other get out. Finally, the hypothermia took over on John and he went down.

JWK: How about his friend who was still in the water?

JOYCE SMITH: He was close to (hypothermia) when the police came in. They just dropped their gun belts and went in the water — no suits, no nothing. They almost ended up being victims also. Finally, the paramedics and the fire department got there and they were able to get (John’s friend) Josh out. He was very close to going under himself. Then they started looking for John (who was submerged)…They (eventually) found John and pulled him out. What was so amazing about that was that the lake is about fifty feet deep with a muddy bottom but where they were was rock bottom and only about ten or twelve feet deep.

JWK: That was good.

JOYCE SMITH: Yes, but he was up against an ice shelf. He had gotten under the ice shelf they would have never found him. They were about a minute from going from a rescue to a recovery. If they had put (recovery) boat in the water, it would have pushed him under the ice shelf and they wouldn’t have been able find him until much later. He was under the water, we’re figuring, between fifteen and sixteen minutes…I had no idea any of this was going on (until) (Josh’s mom Cindy)…called me. I knew she was going call but I wasn’t expecting this.

I could tell when I was talking to her on the telephone  that she was upset. I said “Are you okay?” She said “No, there’s been a bad accident.” I said did you have a car accident?” She said “No.” She said the kids were out on the ice and fell in the water. They just pulled John out and he doesn’t have a  heartbeat.” It was like getting hit in the face by a two-by-four. It just takes everything out of you. It’s the call no parent ever wants to get. She told me to come to the lake, that they were working on him at the lake.

JWK: Is this when you started praying.

JOYCE SMITH: Oh, yes. I was praying very loudly to the Lord. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t not hearing me. I’m sure that the people who were passing by me in the car thought that I was losing my mind. I was on the phone trying to call people, I was praying, I was trying to get a hold of my husband…No one (I was calling) was answering. I finally got a hold of a friend of ours who called the church and told them what was going on…

…I finally got to the hospital…When I got there, of course, every parking space was taken. I frantic about getting in there. So, Cindy (who was already there) ends up parking my car. (When I got inside), I thought they would take me right back to John’s room, which they didn’t do. They put me in a small room. This sweet little nun came in and started praying with me. I had the most awesome peace when she came and started praying with me.

Finally, they told me I could go back to John’s room…I had no idea they were calling me back there because they were going to call time of death. So, the little nun came back with me and was still praying with me.

JWK: Do you know the nun’s name?

NOTE: Joyce’s answer to that question will stun you and, if you don’t already may just have you believing in miracles. It’s a twist worthy of The Twilight Zone but it’s true. In fact, everything that happens next is truly awe-inspiring.

BTW, along with the exceedingly dramatic narrative (I can see this movie in my mind), the book includes an appendix if Bible verses chosen to inspire anyone in need of miracle and/or just a little hope to carry on.

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