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At a recent family reunion, my nephew challenged me to a game of Wii tennis.

“It’s really simple!” he said. He handed me a controller that acted as my tennis racket, and he showed how my movements were transferred to the TV screen. I tossed the virtual ball in the air, raised my controller and served the ball over the net—exactly as I would on a real tennis court. I heard the twang of the ball on the racket’s strings, and as we played I actually worked up a sweat!  

Sales of the Nintendo Wii (pronounced “we”) video game system have exceeded 9.5 million units since it debuted in 2006. You can bowl, box with your spouse, pretend to be a guitar hero, cook food, and even exercise. The new Wii Fit game is designed to allow aging baby boomers to do yoga, calisthenics, and balancing exercises.      

As its name implies, the system is for everyone. My nephew and I whooped, hollered, and trash-talked each other so much my dad came to see what all the fuss was about.

“Grandpa, do you want to try?” my nephew asked.

“Nah,” he said after watching us for a few minutes, “it’s enough for me to watch the two of you play.”

When I was a child, Grandpa would often speak of friends and family who moved to Canada. He spoke of a people who worked very hard to build a life—home, school, and worship—that would reflect their affection for God. There was little time for play, and work was valued very highly.

My nephew benefits from that labor. He wonders, and I wonder, if we will now give ourselves permission to play, to enjoy our leisure time. Retirement homes are now adding Wii systems so residents can stay fit, and—dare I say it?—have fun. I have a vision of my grandkids boxing their grandpa or challenging grandma to an off-road motorcycle race.

God has made us wee children with a capacity for communion with him, not just in work but also in play. In a time when work drains us of our energy, could it be through our play that God restores us to communion with him?

A Remarkable Mother

by Jimmy Carter
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

With deep love and respect, Jimmy Carter portrays his forceful, demanding, and generous mother’s impact on his life and the lives of others in her roles as nurse, church member, citizen, elderly Peace Corps volunteer, and political campaigner. About her own life, Lillian Carter said, “When I look back over my life, I see the pieces fit—it has been a planned life, and I truly believe God had everything to do with it.” (Simon and Schuster)

Say You’re One of Them

by Uwem Akpan
reviewed by Otto Selles

These gripping short stories tell about youth in Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia who face terrible situations ranging from slavery to child prostitution to interethnic massacres. Born in Nigeria, Akpan is a Jesuit priest. After studying creative writing at the University of Michigan, he now teaches at a seminary in Zimbabwe. Akpan does not shy away from the worst in people. While literary in its scope and style, the collection represents a prophetic call to all nations and believers to help the children who pay the price for Africa’s political, economic, and social troubles. For adult readers. (Little, Brown and Company)


by Gary D. Schmidt
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

According to Henry’s father, “if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.” When Henry’s brother is injured in an accident by Chay, a Cambodian refugee, Henry discovers his father is wrong. As Henry, his dog, and his friend travel to Mt. Katahdin, their paths cross with Chay’s. Schmidt’s startling plot, rich imagery, and realistic characters make this young adult novel a joy to read. (Clarion)

Believe in Me

reviewed by Ron DeBoer

Hollywood has long given us feel-good sports movies (Remember the Titans, Hoosiers) where the underdog overcomes prejudice, tragedy, or David-and-Goliath odds. Though Believe in Me follows this tried-and-true formula, refreshingly, the basketball players are high school girls who must conquer traditional 1960s attitudes about women and a coach who only wants to coach boys. The true story of basketball legend Jim Keith, who coached girls in Oklahoma for 35 years, Believe in Me is for the whole family. (Gaiam)

The Trumpet Child

by Over the Rhine
reviewed by Elizabeth Gonzalez

Opening with the claim that they “don’t want to waste your time with music you don’t need,” Over the Rhine’s latest proves that experience inspires wisdom. Karin Bergquist’s smoky vocals, reminiscent of the early world of jazz, do not lilt and float; they dig deep into the earth. Their genre-defying music is no less soulful, from the celebratory “I’m on a Roll” to the apocalyptic title track. (Great Speckled Dog)

In Tandem   

by Rev. Peter Slofstra
reviewed by Ron VandenBurg

Usually, travelogues tell of one individual’s journey. In Tandem, the story of the CRC’s Sea to Sea cycling tour of 2005, tells of 156 Christians traveling across Canada. Pastor Peter Slofstra and his wife, Marja, work in tandem in cycling and ministry as they enjoy living in—and working with—their traveling community, meeting new people, and discovering beautiful locations across Canada. (Essence)

The Lowdown

YouTube Highlights

These diverse YouTube clips will make you laugh, think, and maybe even sing. Search by title or go to for links.

The Story of Stuff: An eye-opening lesson about the origins of “stuff.”

Did You Know 2.0
: Created for a school board in Colorado, this gives a glimpse of the future and how quickly we are headed there.

Charlie Bit Me: For a good laugh, try this classic one-minute clip of a baby biting his brother’s finger; it’s been parodied hundreds of times on YouTube.

Amazing Grace: Singer Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace” accompanies pictures of our beautifully created world.

The Last Lecture: Professor Randy Pausch, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, gives one last lecture. His speech has a lot to teach about our time on earth.

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