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The great revivalist preacher Billy Sunday once told his flock, “When I talk to you about card playing in your home, I am trying to pound through your head that every pack of cards is but another stepping-stone to hell.”

I can’t imagine what Billy Sunday would have said about online gambling. If ladies playing euchre in church basements made the old revivalist spew fire and brimstone, websites like or would probably have made him explode on the spot.

Although only about 4 percent of Americans admitted to gambling online in a recent survey, that number is growing. But the type of person who gambles online is the real cause for concern. The typical online gambler is under 40, tech-savvy, educated, male, and relatively wealthy. A trendsetter, in other words. Combine this group with the recent rise in popularity of Texas Hold ’Em poker, and you’ve got the recipe for an explosion of online gambling.

There’s also a growing fear that websites for young children encourage gambling. The website, for example, has been accused of acting as a gateway to gambling. The site encourages children to play games of chance to earn “KinzCash” dollars, which can be exchanged for outfits and toys for virtual pets.

The Federal Trade Commission has even issued a warning about how easy it is for kids to access adult online gambling sites. Links and banner ads for gambling sites through games or popular websites help drive traffic to online casinos—and all it takes for a child to get into real trouble is access to a debit or credit card.

So where does this leave concerned Christian parents?

It wasn’t so long ago that the Christian Reformed Church condemned card playing as a “worldly amusement.” When I was a kid, my oma (grandmother) would take the scissors to any deck of cards she saw in her house. While that’s probably not a practical approach in the information age, parents do need to be vigilant about what kids are doing online.

Today your kids might be feeding a virtual pet. Tomorrow they could find themselves with a monkey on their back. And that’s no game.

End of the Spear

reviewed by Ron VandenBurg

In 1956, five missionaries were murdered in the South American jungle by the Waodani tribe. Then an amazing thing happened: the killers came to Christ. The families of the slain missionaries show that building relationships is the way to bring people to the Lord. This film offers a well-told Christian story with quality production elements. (20th Century Fox)


by Jon Clinch
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

In a riveting exploration of the nature of evil and the consequences of grace denied, Jon Clinch develops one of Mark Twain’s characters, the father of Huckleberry Finn. Profane, perverted, and murderous, Finn initially repels the reader. Clinch subtly weaves biblical imagery throughout his novel as he exposes Finn’s history, his motivations, and the rot of a deeply prejudiced society. The reader begins to care about Finn, hoping that, though he seems beyond redemption, grace will yet touch his life. (Random House)

The Eastman Italian Baroque Organ

by Hans Davidsson, David Higgs, and William Porter
reviewed by Randy Engle

The story of this instrument is as good as the music! The Eastman Italian Baroque organ was found in an antique shop in Florence, where it had been in storage since the 17th century. Reassembled in Rochester, N.Y., it sings again in a resonant acoustic. Pleasant surprises include the colors and the “toy” stops such as the bird whistle and “thunder.” Close your eyes and let your mind travel to the church in Italy 400 years ago. (Loft Recordings)

Memory Man

by Aqualung
reviewed by Elizabeth Gonzalez

Collaborating with his wife and brother to follow up the 2004 album Strange and Beautiful, British front man Matt Hale’s latest album haunts and challenges the listener by exploring the polarity between despair and anticipation. Memory Man deviates from a typically mellow siren’s song with a few moments of jarring guitar, creating an underwater gasp of air. Aqualung’s hazy vocals offset the beauty of candid, restless piano melodies and thread hope through apocalyptic despair. (Columbia)

Stolen Voices

edited by Zlata Filipovic and Melanie Challenger
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Stolen Voices is a collection of war diaries, representing “the shared experience of conflict by young people, wherever and whenever the violence may have occurred.” This book reveals that wars wound children on both sides as they experience similar hardships—loss of childhood, mental collapse, boredom because of confinement, and scarcity of food, to name a few. Brief historical notes introduce the setting for each segment of diaries. (Doubleday)

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller

by Sarah Miller
reviewed by Sandy Swartzentruber

Annie Sullivan arrived in Alabama in 1887 with a daunting mission: to teach a deaf and blind girl that words have meaning. Helen Keller was wild, unable to communicate, and spoiled by her parents’ fearful indulgence. In this young-adult novel, Annie tells of her tooth-and-nail fight to lead Helen out of isolation. Today some of Annie’s tactics might be viewed as abusive, so this book isn’t for the very young. Nevertheless, Sarah Miller vividly evokes the young spitfire known as “The Miracle Worker.” (Atheneum)

The Lowdown


Fashion Statements: Looking for something different for your fashion-conscious teen? Check out for hip gear with a message.


Define Your Territory: Home Ground, edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney, is a dictionary of terms for the features of American land. Barbara Kingsolver, Bill McKibben, and 43 others direct readers to a deeper appreciation of the terrain. (Trinity University Press)

The Great Escape: Record your dreams, thoughts and ideas in Doodles & Daydreams: Your Passport for Becoming an Escape Artist, a journal designed to unlock your imagination. Designed by Bill Zimmerman and Tom Bloom. (Gibbs Smith)


Not Just Plain Folks: This month FoxFaith releases the big-screen adaptation of The Redemption of Sarah Cain, based on the popular novel by Beverly Lewis and directed by Michael Landon Jr.

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