Enduring love in the face of alcoholism, jail, and terminal cancer

Tonight we feature a love story.  But it’s not your typical Valentine’s Day tale.  It’s a story of marriage, alcoholism, separation, jail, restoration, and terminal cancer – across the span of 30 years.  We’re joined by Lee Self, a former high tech executive who now facilitates CEO peer learning groups.  Lee joins us to talk about the effect of her husband’s alcoholism on her family, and the fundamental lessons she and her loved ones learned from it.

A Navy Yard shooting survivor shares lessons learned from a shocking tragedy

On the morning of September 16, 2013, tonight’s guest encountered the Washington Navy Yard shooter in a stairwell and was shot at close range.  Just before Aaron Alexis pulled the trigger, Jennifer Bennett felt a sense of peace and love as she stared into Aaron’s eyes.  Twelve people were killed by the shooter that day, and he himself died in an exchange of gunfire with police.  Somehow Jennifer survived.  She joins us to talk about her experiences that day, how they transformed her life, and the profound insights she has gained into the importance of really “seeing” others and of boldly honoring our God-given purpose. 

One man’s heart for music and the gospel

Today’s guest, Will Herron, grew up in Northern Ireland and was an early member of the experimental Irish folk rock band known as the Rend Collective, which toured with folks like Chris Tomlin and Kari Jobe, and last year performed at Madison Square Garden and Red Rocks.  He left the group five years ago to become the worship leader at Holy Trinity Church in McLean VA.  Will’s story isn’t sensational like some of the “prodigal sons” we have featured on our program.  It’s more a story of the prodigal son’s brother who, while he stayed home, had a heart that was just as far from his Father as his brother’s.  Will joins us to talk about his life journey and the centrality of music and community to his faith and higher purpose. 

Cancer and the biology of hope and forgiveness

Tonight we’re talking about hope in the face of cancer.  According to the latest statistics from the American Cancer Society, the risk of developing cancer in women is over 37%, and in men it’s over 42%.  Cancer has been called one of the most significant challenges in human history and will affect every one of us at one time or another.  The good news is that we’re on a path towards more rational treatments, including a better understanding of the importance of a more holistic approach that acknowledges the role of spirituality, hope, and forgiveness in healing.  Today, we’re joined by Reverend Dr. Michael Barry, the former Director of Pastoral Care at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia; and the author of four books, including A Reason for Hope and The Forgiveness Project, all of which attempt to address the spiritual needs of cancer patients at a time when their faith is both challenged and critically important.  Michael joins us to talk about his experiences and what’s truly important at such a difficult time in someone’s life. 

Vanishing grace - Whatever happened to the Good News?

About 20 years ago, I (Ed) was adrift in my Christian faith.  I had stopped attending the legalistic church I had been part of for many years, I was chasing the big payday in the high-tech startup world, and I had recently become a father.  All the while, though, something kept gnawing at me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  As I wandered through Barnes and Noble, as I often did in those days, I kept passing a book entitled What’s So Amazing About Grace?  At first I thought, that’s a catchy title.  Then I started to think more and more deeply about the question until I finally said to myself, “What is so amazing about grace?!” So I purchased the book and read it, and it changed my life.  Today, we’re joined by Philip Yancey, the author of that book and 20 others (four written with Dr. Paul Brand), many of them award winning.  Philip’s most recent book is entitled Vanishing Grace, Whatever Happened to the Good News?  In it, he revisits the topic of grace noting that his original question has only grown more urgent in recent years.

A black man befriends KKK members in his quest to tear down racial barriers

Tonight we return to the topic of racial reconciliation.  Our guest is Daryl Davis, a local musician, author, and black man who is on a mission to tear down some of the most extreme barriers between whites and blacks in our country.  For the past 30 years, Daryl has been seeking out and befriending members of the KKK, and watching them radically transform when they came to know him.  Some of these transformations have been so remarkable that a number of Klan members have rescinded their beliefs and given their hoods and robes to Daryl for a museum he plans to create.  Daryl joins us to talk about the power of crossing the divide, truly listening to people who are radically different from us, and building relationships.  He’ll also talk about what he learned performing with people like Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bo Diddley.   

#GOSPEL – Sharing the Good News with Generation Z

According to tonight’s guest, in today’s information-saturated world we have five-to-ten seconds to persuade someone that what we have to say is worthy of their time and attention.  After that, a filter kicks in and people tune us out.  So how does this affect how we share the gospel; and what exactly is the gospel?  Daniel Rice is the author of #GOSPEL, and the founder of the Hashtag Gospel organization that works to present the gospel in a way that syncs with today’s culture and uniqueness.  Daniel joins us to talk about what led him to start this movement, how it’s affected others, and to share some “updated” takes on the gospel. 

The Army’s first Chief Technology Officer walks boldly by faith

Rick Pina was the first US-born member of his Dominican Republic family.  He grew up in Brooklyn in the 1970s, a place characterized by poverty, drugs and violence; and he joined the Army partly to escape this environment.  In August of 1995, he heard the gospel in a military chapel in Kuwait and asked God to reveal His truth to him and save him – and his life changed forever.  Rick taught his first Bible study just five months after giving his life to Christ, preached his first sermon before the end of his Kuwait deployment, and has been preaching ever since including thousands of Web devotionals.  Rick’s identity as a man of God never wavered as he rose to become the Army’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO).  Rick joins us to talk about how he unabashedly walked by faith throughout his 25-year military career and his post-retirement ministry with his wife, Isabella. 

Providing hot food, clothing, warmth, and other services to local homeless people every Friday

Gene and Jeanie Cross have been getting up at 4:00 a.m. every Friday for the past 10 years to prepare hot meals and provide other services for the homeless population in Ballston, VA.  They join us to talk about how they were drawn to this type of volunteer work; and the benefits of doing so for them, the people they serve, and the folks they work alongside.  They also share stories about the people they have helped, and challenge us to step outside the walls of our homes and churches and get our hands dirty serving others. 

A Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient helps military family members grieve the loss of a loved one

Bonnie Carroll is a 2015 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  She’s a former White House West Wing staffer and Air Force Reserve Major whose life was forever changed when her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, was killed in an Army C-12 plane crash in November 1992.  As Bonnie searched for support, she realized there was no organization dedicated to providing help to military families grieving the death of a loved one.  In 1994, she founded TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors – a national support program that has offered hope and healing to 70,000 military family members, casualty officers, and caregivers.  Bonnie joins us to talk about the experience of losing her husband, her vision for TAPS, and some of the people they’ve been able to serve. 

Life-changing Christmas gifts for children of prison inmates

Kevin Almestica was born in Rikers Island Prison 23 years ago.  Three days later, his mother handed him over to Mayra Alemar to raise until she was released from prison.  Mayra was working with Prison Fellowship when she first met Kevin’s pregnant mom.  Kevin’s biological parents and godfather were all dead by the time he was 12, and Mayra wound up raising Kevin to adulthood while also caring for five other children.  Kevin joins us to talk about his experiences growing up, and the profound impact that Mayra and Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program had on him.  We’re also joined by Jim Forbes, the Director of Communications for Prison Fellowship, who will give us details on their Angel Tree program. 

The importance of listening

The importance of listening is something that countless guests have shared with us on Grace in 30.  Yet it seems to be in short supply these days.  When we don’t have our heads buried in our mobile phones or connected to earbuds, we’re formulating the next thing we’re going to say while someone else is talking.  Even worse, our failure to truly listen leads us to miss out on the need, pain, and suffering of people all around us.  Today’s guest is Art Bennett, CEO and President of Catholic Charities of the Arlington Diocese, and the co-author of Tuned In: The Power of Pressing Pause and Listening.  Art joins us to talk about what listening really is, how to do it with purpose, and the benefits and joys of doing so.

Reconnecting homeless people with their loved ones via video messages and social media

Ask yourself, where would you be without family and friends?  The answer, too often, is homeless and possibly on the streets.  Miracle Messages helps people experiencing homelessness to record short videos for their long-lost relatives.  They use social media and volunteers to locate their loved ones and try to deliver the messages as a way of reuniting families.  Restoring those relationships at the beginning of a recovery process is the goal, and they hope to unite 1% of the world’s homeless population with their relatives by 2021.  How cool would it be to use our cell phones not only for texting and selfies but also as a tool to help end homelessness and help our neighbors in need.  Today we’re joined by Kevin Adler, the Founder and CEO of Miracle Messages.  Kevin joins us to share how this idea came about, some stories of family reunions, and how they plan to reach their audacious goal. 

Getting people engaged in our communities and democracy

It was a beautiful thing to see the scenes of rescue and kindness during the recent hurricanes.  Nobody was asking people who they voted for or their position on confederate statues as they helped each other with patience and dignity.  This begs a question.  How do we get people treating each other like this and serving one another absent some form of tragedy?  Tonight we’re joined by Kristin Cambell, the Executive Director of PACE (Philanthropy for Active Civil Engagement), a learning collaborative of over 45 diverse philanthropies that invest in getting people engaged in our communities and democracy.  Some of their members include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, and the Case Foundation.  Kristin joins us to talk about this and other important questions, and how her organization is working to address them.

An haute couture fashion designer reveals God’s beauty

In the early 90s, a young haute couture fashion designer named Aleona Isakova became a finalist in the prestigious Nina Ricci fashion competition in Moscow.  She also became the public face and designer for a Russian company, and she appeared to be on top of the world.  But she soon found herself thinking, “Is this all there is, simply living and designing clothes?”  She would eventually have a vision of a collection of haute couture dresses that represent the story of the Bible, and a businessman she barely knew would give her a half-million dollars to bring her vision to life.  Her Beauty by God collection has since been shown in London, Jerusalem, Moscow, Australia, and America.  Aleona and her husband now live in the United States and she recently launched the Leonard Charitable Foundation, Inc. in honor of the gentlemen who so graciously funded her collection.  Aleona joins us to talk about her experiences in Russia, her personal transformation, and a fashion design competition her foundation is sponsoring to motivate talented fashion designers to create God-inspired designs to be revealed at DC Fashion Week in Washington in September 2018.  We’re also joined by Annabel Foery, the foundation’s Treasurer. 

Retired Congressman Frank Wolf fights for human rights and religious freedom

Former Congressman Frank Wolf left Congress in 2014 after serving 17 terms (34 years) to focus full-time on his passions of human rights and religious freedom.  He currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative where their mission is to create a world where religious freedom is recognized as a fundamental human right.  Congressman Wolf joins us to talk about the current state of these rights and freedoms across the globe, his time in Congress, and the work he is doing today including the development of a Congressional scorecard that encourages and commends congressional action on these issues. 

The radical prison transformation of a violent white supremacist

Russ Kloskin grew up in a family marked by violence, drug use, and poverty.  At age seven his mom got him high on marijuana, and at age 11 she took him with her to perform a burglary.  At age 12 he was arrested for the first time, and at age 15 he was arrested for armed robbery and tried and convicted as an adult.  Russ would spend 27 of the next 35 years in prison where he became a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, one of the most violent white supremacist prison gangs in the U.S., briefly rising to the level of President during the late 90s.  During a 7-year stint in solitary confinement, Russ began to see the anger and rage that had come to fill his heart and radically changed his life.  He joins us to talk about his experiences and the work he is now doing to help prisoners successfully re-integrate with society when they are released.

Why capitalism is the best economic system for lifting up people and societies

Over four years ago, Anne Bradley gave birth to her daughter, Bailey Grace, nine weeks premature.  After her delivery, Bailey spent five weeks in an incubator with a tiny tube that passed through her nose and down to her stomach to feed her.  Anne often wondered what she would have done if she lived somewhere like Bangladesh where the type of medical care we take for granted isn’t widely available.  She also thought about that tiny breathing tube and the people who conceived, designed, tested, made, and delivered it – people who almost certainly encounter mundane and frustrating things in their jobs and never get to see the impact of their work on folks like Anne and Bailey.

Anne is the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics; teaches at Georgetown and George Mason Universities; and is the co-editor of two books including the recently-released Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism.  She joins us to talk about the higher purpose and impact of our work, no matter how ordinary it may seem; and how capitalism, while imperfect, is the best system we’ve got for lifting up people and societies.

Transforming prisons into places of economic, social, and spiritual flourishing

There are over 2.2 million prisoners in the United States.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could harness their potential, give them meaningful work, and pay fair wages that they could use to help their families outside of prison?  Well tonight’s guest has done just that.  Since 2010, Pete Ochs, CEO of Capital III (“3”), has run businesses inside the maximum and medium security prisons at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility in Kansas.  Pete joins us to talk about how these businesses came about, the profound effect they have had on everyone involved, and the lessons he’s learned over his 40+ year career.   

A thriving local software company promotes compassion, dignity and excellence

Today we’re joined by David DeWolf, the founder and CEO of 3Pillar Global, a local software development firm that has been named an Inc. 5000 fastest growing company in seven of the past eight years.   3Pillar was also recently named a Washington Post Top Workplace for the 3rd consecutive year.  David joins us to talk about the keys to balancing a thriving business, large family, and numerous other responsibilities, all while expressing compassion and honoring the dignity of all.