New Bible study released: Spark: Igniting Your God-Given Creativity

Spark_StudyGuide_RGBEditedWebNews release
July 16, 2015

Women’s Bible study to nurture the creative spirit

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario — A new women’s Bible study book, Spark: Igniting Your God-Given Creativity, has been published by MennoMedia, commissioned by Mennonite Women Canada (MW Canada) and Mennonite Women USA (MW USA).

The study is designed to help users rediscover the joys of being created in God’s image and nurture their own creativity. “We hope that women will take a look at stories of God as the original Artist, and be encouraged to develop their own creativity as a divine gift,” says Mary Ann Weber, managing editor for the Women’s Bible Study series.

Written by April Yamasaki in consultation with MW Canada and MW USA, the study is one in a series of Bible studies commissioned by the women’s groups, including studies on justice, self-care, family care, creation care, stewardship of money, stewardship of gifts, and biblical women.

Yamasaki is a pastor at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbottsford, British Columbia,AprilYamasaki who enjoys expressing her love of Scripture and creativity in worship and preaching.

Twelve sessions and one worship session highlight biblical stories of God’s creative Spirit at work. Beginning with the creation story, the study delves into the creativity God demonstrated during the creation of the world and leads readers into how they can rekindle their own creativity in their daily lives.

Users will look at Scripture as a God-breathed work of creativity, to Jesus as a creative artist through interactions and storytelling, to discovering that the Holy Spirit inspires creativity for the common good. “Readers will grow in their understanding of how they can make creativity a way of living,” notes Amy Gingerich, editorial director for MennoMedia. “The study will help readers better connect with God—the source of creativity.”

Each session brings biblical texts to life, encouraging readers to uncover, develop, and embrace the gift of their own creativity. Sessions include Scripture, suggestions for a visual to aid reflection and stimulate the senses, a section to dig deeper into the text, a series of questions integrating the story with personal experience, and suggestions for session closings. The study concludes with a creative celebration of worship. All sessions are organized into one book for women’s groups, Sunday school, or individual study. A separate retreat kit is also available.

Author Yamasaki is a graduate of the University of British Columbia and Regent College. She writes a blog about faith and writes and leads retreats on spiritual practices, faith, work, rest, and Christian living. She is also the author of Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal, published by Herald Press in 2013, among other works.

MennoMedia Staff
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Melodie Davis
News manager

Reconcile – a Voice Crying in the Wilderness Gets Projected from the Rooftops by Steve Carpenter

Renowned Notre Dame Professor, John Paul Ledrach has been a peacemaker for decades, traveling the globe to such hot spots as Columbia, Northern Ireland, Somalia, Burma and Nepal, acting as a mediator and facilitator between warring factions.

John Paul Lederach

John Paul Lederach

His book Journey Toward Reconciliation, published in 1999, has been significantly revised, updated and reissued as Reconcile – Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians.
Not surprisingly, we at MennoMedia, think Reconcile is a powerful book, one that should be read by every Christian. The surprise is that Bill and Lynne Hybels, founding co-pastors of Willow Creek, the fourth largest mega church in the United States, feel the same way. Bill and Lynne wrote the foreword to Reconcile stating, “When we decided to study the art of peacemaking, we heard a single name recommended over and over again: John Paul Lederach. So we began reading Lederach. Continued reading Lederach. Are still reading Lederach. And say to you: read Lederach!”

Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels

Lynne Hybels

Lynne Hybels

In the foreword to Reconcile, Bill and Lynne Hybels say, “This book truly has the power to change the world. Marriage breakdown? Read Reconcile. Extended family dispute? Read Reconcile. Neighborhood conflict? Read Reconcile…Countries at war? Honestly, if there were a way to lock up world leaders until they read Reconcile, the world would be a different place.”

We at MennoMedia “seek to engage and shape church and society with resources for living the Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective.” We are a small publisher with just 24 full time equivalent employees but we are “punching above our weight class” in terms of impact. One of the best demonstrations of that broad reach, going beyond Mennonite circles to those seeking an Anabaptist understanding of faith, is the repackaging and marketing of Reconcile. Our editor Valerie Weaver-Zercher shuffled the chapters in Journey Toward Forgiveness, made other edits and changes, and contacted Bill and Lynn Hybels for the foreword. Lynn had appeared previously in a MennoMedia TV documentary, Waging Peace. Merrill Miller designed a new cover and we relaunched Reconcile.

One surprise was Bill Hybels featuring it in his Global Leadership Summit last fall, mentioning Reconcile five times from the pulpit. These annual events reach far beyond the audience Bill has sitting in front of him. The 2015 Summit reached approximately 220,000 church leaders in 114 countries and 35 languages by video conference. Wow! That is global impact. For a short time, immediately after the summit, Reconcile rose to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list in the category of books about social justice. MennoMedia sold 4,500 copies of Reconcile since its release last fall. We pray this and other MennoMedia resources will continue to not only improve an individual’s skill set but also change the mindset of many Christian leaders who have not yet embraced Christ’s way of peace.

You can see Willow Creek’s video interview with John Paul Lederach here.

To purchase your copy of Reconcile in paperback or electronic version click here.

To make an on-line contribution to MennoMedia click HERE.

Thank you for your support for MennoMedia. Your gifts help empower this ministry through God’s marvelous kingdom reaching out to the world.

Steve Carpenter Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations

Being Howard Zehr

Nationally known restorative justice practitioner sujatha baliga tells this story of how she met Herald Press author Howard Zehr. It was 2007, and baliga had invited Zehr to speak at a conference on crime victims at Stanford Law School’s Criminal Justice Center.

As Howard finished his talk, Robert Weisburg, the center’s long-time faculty director, excitedly whispered, “I’ve discovered what I want to be when I grow up! Howard Zehr!”

I was in complete agreement with Professor Weisburg that day. In the years that followed, I’ve taken every opportunity to learn from Howard, in the hopes that his prodigious heart and intellect would somehow be contagious.

It’s no exaggeration to say that by asking us to change lenses, Howard Zehr has changed countless lives. Mine is among them.


Shortly after meeting Howard and encountering his paradigm on restorative justice, baliga left the practice of law to try to put into practice her emerging commitment to a justice that restores and heals. “Here was a view of justice that could better meet crime victims’ needs, while simultaneously ending our addiction to punitive confinement by believing in the power of communities to support their members when things go wrong,” baliga writes in the foreword to the new edition of Zehr’s classic text, Changing Lenses. “Changing these constructs requires fearlessly replacing entrenched views that no longer serve us with new ones that do. Howard Zehr is such a thinker.”


Like baliga, countless restorative justice practitioners have found in Zehr a mentor and a friend. Frequently called the “grandfather of the restorative justice movement,” Zehr published Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice, with Herald Press in 1990.

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It fast became the central text of the restorative justice movement, in use in classrooms and workshops and a variety of settings across the world. Zehr has led hundreds of events in more than twenty-five countries and thirty-five states. His work has included trainings and consultations on restorative justice, victim-offender conferencing, judicial reform, and other criminal justice matters. He has had particular influence in the United States, Brazil, Japan, Jamaica, Northern Ireland, Britain, the Ukraine, and New Zealand, the latter which has restructured its juvenile justice system into a family-focused, restorative approach. “Changing Lenses has done more to shape my understanding of justice and peacemaking and to define my scholarly career and sense of vocation than any other,” Chris Marshall, professor of restorative justice at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, says. “It remains my first choice when people ask me what they should read to learn more about restorative justice.”

The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times, released in June 2015, gave Zehr the opportunity to add valuable updates to terminology and paradigms that have shifted in the twenty-five years since the book was first published. Language about victim-offender interaction has changed, as have the discussions surrounding mass incarceration, race, and poverty in the United States. A new resource section adds group exercises and discussion questions from leading restorative justice practitioners. Nobel Peace Prize-winner Leymah Gbowee, a former student of Zehr’s, says that the new edition of the book “will change how you think about wrongdoing and justice and mercy.” And Michelle Alexander, author of the groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow, says, “Now that our nation is finally beginning to come to terms with the immorality and irrationality of our criminal injustice system, I hope that we will reread Howard Zehr’s classic text, Changing Lenses, and accept his challenge to reimagine what justice ought to look like.”


Undergirding all of his wisdom and experience in restorative justice is a commitment to the Christ who calls us to compassion—for both those who have been harmed and those who harm.  Changing Lenses has a robust theological and biblical rationale for restorative justice. And although he may be the grandfather of the movement, Zehr is hardly sitting in his rocking chair watching the world go by. As co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice and a distinguished professor at the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, Zehr remains active in speaking, teaching, writing, and consulting. He continues to be sought out by journalists and scholar for his expertise—for example being quoted extensively in this recent article about to the Charleston church shooting.

Zehr is one of many Herald Press authors with whom I’m privileged to work. Like Robert Weisburg and sujatha baliga, I wouldn’t mind being Howard Zehr when I grow up. After reading Changing Lenses, maybe you’ll think that too. As far as role models go, you could do a lot worse.

Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times is available for purchase here.

headshotValerie Weaver-Zercher is managing editor of Herald Press trade books.