Food for the Soul

CP Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

Posted 7/30/15 at 1:55 PM | Audra Jennings

Beth K. Vogt Explores How God’s Best Often Comes Disguised as a Second Chance

An interview with Beth K. Vogt,

Author of Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Beth K. Vogt author of Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Beth K. Vogt

Marriage is serious business — both for the couple tying the knot and for wedding vendors, with the average cost of an American wedding topping $25,000. As budgets get stretched, so can fraying nerves and already-taut emotions, as captured in Beth K. Vogt’s new Destination Wedding series.

In the first novel in the series, Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Howard Books/June 30, 2015/ISBN: 978-1476789781/$14.99), paramedic Vanessa Hollister thinks she has moved beyond the pain of her first marriage — a “what-were-you-thinking” teenage elopement — and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Fla., with her new fiancé. Her dream of an idyllic beach wedding is disrupted, though, with the sudden reappearance of her first husband.

Q: Crazy Little Thing Called Love is the first book in your new Destination Wedding Series. Tell us a little about where the idea came from and what you’re most excited about for this new series.

I discussed the idea of writing a series with my mentor and friend, author Rachel Hauck, as well as my agent, Rachelle Gardner. I was thrilled Howard Books liked the idea of the Destination Wedding series. So often in contemporary romance novels, the wedding comes at the end of the novel — often as an epilogue. In this series, the wedding is a main plot point. And travel — well, so many people love to read about new places, right? So combining weddings with new destinations — to me, that was a win-win situation.

Q: If you had the chance to plan a destination wedding, where would you go and why?

My Destination Wedding series focuses on wedding locations in the U.S., so I’m going to pick a site within the 50 states (and because I live in Colorado, that’s ruled out). My husband, our youngest daughter and I vacationed in Bandon, Ore., several years ago with close friends; we rented a beach house. The sunsets and sunrises were lovely, and the town is so quaint. I think Bandon would make a great location for a destination wedding . . . maybe even for a novel!

Q: What was your inspiration for writing Crazy Little Thing Called Love?

I have several friends who met in high school and ended up getting married — and they’ve stayed married, I’m happy to report. When my husband and I were dating, we talked briefly of eloping — very briefly. And I think everyone looks back on their high school years and can think of at least one decision they made, a romantic one or a just a general life decision, and they wonder, “What if?” What if they had done things differently?

Q: You usually have a high-concept question you weave into your stories. What was the main question for Crazy Little Thing Called Love?

I believe a Story Question is what fuels a novel. It’s what your characters are wrestling with from chapter one to the end. And it’s often a question readers might wrestle with too. For Crazy Little Thing Called Love, I focused on this Story Question: What if you realized what you thought was your worst mistake actually was the right choice?

Q: Vanessa is used to giving in to her fiancé’s wishes constantly. Do you think women have a tendency to do this generally in relationships?

No, not really. I was engaged when I was nineteen before I met my now husband, and I didn’t know my own mind back then and gave in too easily to what my fiancé thought. I don’t think that was because I was a woman so much as because I was young. There should be a natural give-and-take in any relationship, but a couple has to learn to balance it so both people are heard and valued. Of course, personalities come into play here, and some couples never grow into a more mature relationship.

Q: How did growing up in a military family that moves around frequently impact the person Vanessa became?

Remember, as the author I got to plot exactly how Vanessa was affected by being part of a military family; her experience isn’t true for every military child. She moved around a lot and had difficulty forming lasting friendships. This can be a challenge when a family moves every couple of years. The way I summed it up in Crazy Little Thing Called Love is that Vanessa was good at saying hello and goodbye, but she didn’t know how to do the relationship in between.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Howard Books

Q: What were your friendships like during high school? Can you identify with the way Vanessa felt as the new girl over and over again?

I switched schools between my sophomore and junior years of high school, but I did that by choice, not because my family moved. So while I said goodbye to some friends, I had other friends waiting for me at the other school and never really felt like the “new” girl. To understand Vanessa, I drew on my experience of raising my own children, helping them navigate friendships as they grew up in a military family and the inevitable goodbyes that come with that.

Q: Have you ever made a rash decision — even if it was made on good intentions? What happened as a result?

Oh, all sorts of rash decisions — everything from adopting stray animals (note the plural) to saying yes to going on a blind date that ended up lasting less than an hour. I’ve learned rash decisions — ones where I mentally leap before I look at the possible consequences of my choices — rarely end well. One of my rules now is if a decision has to be made immediately, my answer is no.

Q: Vanessa and Logan get a second chance at love. Have you ever had a second chance at something, and did you take it?

Like everyone else in the world, I’ve had a variety of second chances in my life, including romantic ones. And I have to admit I should have said “No, thanks” to some of them. A second chance isn’t an automatic yes from God. It should be prayed over . . . and treated as a treasured opportunity — whether you take it or not.

Q: How can being burnt in love and relationships impact your future ability to have an open heart toward others?

The question itself supplies the answer: When we are burned by something, we are more cautious the next time. No one escapes being disappointed by others. No one escapes being brokenhearted. But we can choose how we respond to it. Being cautious doesn’t mean we have to become jaded or closed off to other people. We can choose to be careful whom we give our heart to — and isn’t that a wise thing? But being cautious doesn’t mean choosing never to love again.

Q: To grow closer to God, Vanessa starts writing prayers in her journal. What do you do in your own quiet time with the Lord that helps you remain close to him?

Listening to praise-and-worship music has always been an important part of my quiet times. I’ve created worship playlists on Spotify, compiling my favorite songs. A few years ago I discovered the book Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth. I’m not an artist, but this book, which details how to incorporate drawing into your prayer time, rejuvenated my quiet time. I also like to read my Bible in tandem with a specific book. Right now I am reading Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity by J. Scott McElroy, which a friend gave me for Christmas.

Q: Can you think about a time in your life when you tried to force a dream or rush ahead of God’s timing? How did that work out for you?

There have been times when I’ve been impatient with God’s timing for things — for him to resolve a longstanding conflict or for him to change me in an area that I struggle. (I dealt with fear for many years.) I’ve had to realize God is working in my life even when I can’t see anything happening. To trust him. And when I’ve prayed and feel no clear direction of what to do or say next . . . I stay still. Quiet. I wait. It’s hard, but it’s the best thing to do rather than running ahead and assuming I know what to do without any clear guidance.

Q: Why did you want to choose a risky profession for Logan’s character? What kind of research did you have to do to represent it well?

I knew Logan needed to be in a profession that was risky because I wanted him to challenge Vanessa to move past all the boundaries she’d put around herself. I wanted to choose something outside the box. So I mulled for a few days — mulling is a huge part of the writing process. And the idea “storm chaser” came to mind. I would have loved to have time to do more research about storm chasing; there’s just never enough time to do everything I want. I’ve read some about storm chasers and have always been intrigued about why someone would run toward a tornado instead of running for safety. And I discovered they are not just thrill seekers. They are scientists, motivated by a desire to understand storms better, to help protect people. I read some books and did research online to understand storm chasers further.

Q: Was some of the rich camaraderie and conversation between friends in the book inspired by your own relationships?

Friendships are so, so important to me. And yes, when I’m with my friends, it’s all about the conversation, the laughter, the give-and-take between us. If I can make someone laugh, I’m happy. And I’m thankful I have people in my life who know the real me, who are willing to be honest with me, to challenge me — and who are real with me too. I don’t want to pretend anymore . . . or do a fake life. That’s not what God calls us to do. We’re to reflect his image to others, and having honest, loving relationships with others is one of the most beautiful ways we can do that.

Q: What can we expect from you next?

More Destination Wedding stories! I’m working on another novella and another novel (Almost Like Being in Love) for 2016. I’m intrigued by Logan’s little sister’s story: What happens with Caron and Alex? And there are always other stories perking in my brain, sparked by conversations, news stories and random things I run across in my day-to-day life. Did you know you can rent a bridesmaid? Now how intriguing is that? And I’ve already started a list of “What if?” ideas for other stories.

For more information about Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Beth K. Vogt visit www.bethvogt.com, become a fan on Facebook (AuthorBethKVogt) or follow her on Twitter (@bethvogt) and Pinterest (beth_vogt).

Posted 7/28/15 at 4:14 PM | Audra Jennings

Author Learns How to Forgive Her Father's Killer

An interview with Laurie Coombs,

Author of Letters from My Fathers Murderer

Laurie A. Coombs, author of Letters from My Father's Murderer
Laurie A. Coombs

If you asked anyone who knew Laurie A. Coombs, they would tell you what an incredibly strong person she was — the kind of person who can make it through anything. As Coombs details in her new memoir, Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness (Kregel/June 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825442292/$14.99), that outward veneer of strength masked a crumbling interior. FULL POST

Posted 7/27/15 at 3:26 PM | Audra Jennings

New DVD Series Helps You Let Your Story Draw Others to Christ

Intersect by Rob Peabody and Cris Rogers
Kregel Publications
Intersect DVD series, by Rob Peabody and Cris Rogers

Let’s face it: Opening up to the people we love most about the most important issues in life — such as faith — can be tough. Whether it’s embarrassment or misunderstanding, the fear of rejection can keep our lips sealed, thus keeping our unsaved loved ones lost in the dark. This is why Rob Peabody and Cris Rogers created Intersect: Where Your Story and God’s Story Converge (Kregel Publications/July 27, 2015/$15.99), a five-week short film resource designed to help Christians engage their family, friends and neighbors in a meaningful way about their faith. Whether used in a café, a friend’s living room or a more formal church setting, the video series can be tailored to a variety of audiences.

Intersect follows the lives of five people as they examine their struggles and triumphs in light of what God teaches us about life in Scripture. Viewers can relate easily to their stories, which cover issues such as:

  • Rest
  • Control
  • Expectations
  • Disappointment
  • Trust

The power of story plays an important role in Intersects intended impact. “The beauty of each person’s individual journey is that although they are each completely unique, they can also relate and intersect,” Peabody explains. “When that happens, it may bring validation, hope, assurance, comfort and meaning. In a day and age where truth is debated and experience reigns supreme, our stories speak volumes.”

Avoiding “Christianese,” Intersect is specifically designed to appeal to all people, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. “We’ve created Intersect in such a way that anyone can play the films and facilitate the conversation from the study guide,” Peabody explains. “We see Intersect as a ‘pre-intro to Christianity,’ entertaining ideas about God and what He might have to say about universal issues we all face.”

In the end, both Peabody and Rogers hope Intersect will help Christians understand that even if they don’t feel like they have anything to offer their searching loved ones, they have a story, and God wants to merge with and use their story to reach the lost.

For more information about Intersect and to watch a preview,

visit www.awakenmovement.com/intersect.

About the Producers

Rob Peabody
Rob Peabody

Rob Peabody left his position as lead campus pastor of a mega-church in Texas in 2011 and moved with his wife, Medea, and their two sons to the U.K. He is now the co-founder and director of Awaken, a non-profit organization that exists to provide resources and creativity to the church and reach Londoners in their 20s and 30s with the Gospel. This work is commissioned by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and in partnership with the Church of England.

Peabody also currently serves as a missional consultant for multiple church networks. He appears regularly at the Spring Harvest conferences in Great Britain and will be leading a new upcoming national U.K. conference for young adults called The Pursuit.

In addition, Peabody has written a small-group film series entitled Kingdom Rise (2013), as well as the book Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom (2014).

Connect with Rob Peabody at his online home at awakenmovement.com, like the Awaken Movement on Facebook (awakenmovement) or follow Rob on Twitter (@AwakenRob and @awakenmovement).

Cris Rogers
Cris Rogers

Cris Rogers is a writer, pastor, speaker and church visionary. In 2010, Rogers planted a church in the poorest area of London with a dream for it to be an explosion of joy within the tower block estate in which he works.

Follow Cris Rogers on Twitter (@RabbiRogers).

Posted 7/17/15 at 2:53 PM | Audra Jennings

Award-winning Author Explores the Cost of Living Truthfully

An interview with Melanie Dobson,

Author of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor

Melanie Dobson, author of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor
Melanie Dobson

Every family has secrets they’d prefer to stay hidden, but where is the line between protecting the ones you love and simple self-preservation? The theme of Melanie Dobson’s sweeping new novel, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor (Howard Books/May 5, 2015/ ISBN: 9781476746142/$14.99) is how the choices of a few can impact generations.

Q: In your latest book, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, we meet 19-year-old Maggie — innocent in many ways — but she finds herself in an unwed pregnancy during a time period when that was socially unacceptable. What does that situation mean for her and her family?

Maggie lost her biological parents during World War II, and her beloved younger brother died in an orphanage after the war. Heartbroken and scared, Maggie was raised by foster parents near Bristol, England. In the 1950s, British mothers often told their children that a midwife or a stork brought each new baby, so many young women were naïve about the facts of life. Maggie and her foster mother never discussed where babies came from.

Maggie craves love at the beginning of this story, but the father of her baby has sailed away from their coastal village, and she knows this unexpected pregnancy will humiliate her foster family. Since she has no place else to turn, Maggie begins to contemplate suicide, thinking it will be better for her child to be cradled in heaven rather than dying slowly in an orphanage like Maggie’s brother.

Q: Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor spans four generations of women, slipping back and forth between a past and contemporary story. Why do the three older women keep secrets from their daughters? How far are some people willing to go to cover the shame of their past?

Mother-daughter relationships can be complicated. This relationship can be one of the closest a woman might experience, but it can also be one of the most hurtful. In both the past and present parts of the story, the mothers kept secrets from their daughters in order to protect them, but as these secrets are passed down through generations, they almost destroy their family.

While these women believe they are protecting the people they love, they are really protecting themselves. The wounds from shame have been around since Adam and Eve sinned against God and then hid themselves in the perfect garden. Like Adam and Eve, many of us are willing to go a long way to cover up sin or abuse from our past. This makes me even more grateful for the grace of God that has the power to redeem our past and cleanse all our shame.

Q: Why did you choose to weave the theme of butterflies through this story?

Maggie’s daughter, Libby, is a unique young woman who is fascinated by butterflies. She is a beautiful, passionate girl who thrives on wandering among the flowers in Ladenbrooke’s gardens and spilling her heart on the pages of her sketchbook. Even though she struggles socially, Libby is enchanted by the beauty and dance of butterflies. As she grows older, Libby loves creating colorful butterflies — her friends — through painting, and these butterflies ultimately bring new life to her as well.

I chose to use the example of butterflies throughout this story because of their struggle to break free of the cocoon that both shelters and confines them and because of their transformation into elegant, vibrant creatures that rely on the sun for life. Once we allow God to peel back the shame and guilt that bind us, we — like these magical butterflies —are finally free to be exactly who He made us to be.

Q: You’ve said if Libby had been born in modern times, she could have fallen on the autism spectrum. Why did you choose to include that aspect as part of her story?

My oldest daughter has sensory processing issues, and we have journeyed with friends throughout the years who have children on this spectrum as well. Parents of kids on the autism spectrum often experience a lot of guilt and shed many tears on behalf of their son or daughter. Until parents have a diagnosis, there is a lot of confusion as to why their child is different than other kids and why they struggle to do seemingly simple tasks when really they are fighting to survive. There can also be judgment from teachers and other adults who are confused or uneducated about this spectrum.

Children on the autism spectrum often struggle with self-control and relationships, but they can also be incredibly bright, passionate people, such as Libby, who excel at art or science or whatever talents God has given them. In this story, I wanted to celebrate these wonderful kids and encourage moms, in particular, who might feel hopeless and alone.

Q: How were people with autism and their families treated differently 50 years ago?

In the 1950s, the mother of a child with autism was referred to as a “refrigerator mom” because it was thought autism was a result of being parented by a cold, unfeeling mother. Ouch! I can’t imagine how hurtful that must have been to moms of autistic children. In Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, Walter and Maggie debate what would help and what would hurt Libby. Walter wants Libby to face her fears while Maggie wants to protect her daughter from the world and the children who tease her. They both feel helpless at times as they seek to understand Libby’s heart and mind.

When I was in England, I spent time with a woman who had been a special education teacher 50 years ago. She said during this time period, autistic children would have been sent to a separate home, while those with Asperger syndrome or sensory processing issues would most likely have been rejected by other children and adults because their differences.

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson
Howard Books

Q: Do you think sensitivity and understanding for those with autism has increased in modern times? What can individuals do to help change the way society views and interacts with those impacted by autism?

I am incredibly grateful for the advances in understanding the spectrum of autism and all the amazing techniques, exercises and therapies to help kids on this spectrum succeed. Still many children with Sensory Processing Disorder are misdiagnosed. It’s important to continue educating parents and teachers about the range of this spectrum and how children with heightened sensory awareness might react with fear or anger when they feel threatened. It is also helpful when parents of children on the autism spectrum are able to be honest about the successes and failures of their journey. Instead of judging, we should all encourage parents who love their kids but feel discouraged on their quest for answers.

Q: Willow Cottage, the home of the Doyle family, sits in the shadows of the Croft family’s Ladenbrooke Manor. What is the significance of these shadows?

The Crofts are an upper class, noble family in England while Walter and Maggie Doyle are solidly middle class. During the 1950s, there were strict society rules between the British classes, but both Oliver (the son of Lord and Lady Croft) and Libby (the Doyles’ daughter) defy these rules. Like the boundaries of society, a stone wall separated Ladenbrooke Manor and Willow Cottage until tragedy strikes both families and these social boundaries begin to crumble. Ultimately God’s light shines through the shadows on both sides of the wall.

Q: Your favorite characters to write about are everyday heroes and heroines who sacrifice their lives for someone else. Do any of your characters sacrifice their lives in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor?

I am fascinated by seemingly ordinary people today and throughout history who have done extraordinary things to help others. In Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, Walter chooses to sacrifice his career and his plans for the future to raise a daughter who’s biologically not his. He grows to love Libby, and even though his emotions are tumultuous throughout this story, Walter ultimately decides to accept and care for this girl he believes God has given him. Also, Maggie originally thinks that taking her own life, along with the life of her unborn daughter, is the most loving thing to do for her child, but Walter stops her from killing herself; she ultimately sacrifices herself to fight for Libby and to care for Libby’s daughter.

Q: Despite the fear of disappointing people we love, how can we learn to live our lives in the light of the truth instead of hiding?

One of the verses I cling to regularly as a parent is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Christ ripped the veil of our shame in two when He died so we no longer have to hide behind it. I love when women of different generations are honest with one another about their weaknesses and offer each other grace, just as Christ gave freely to each of us.

Q: There seem to be some similarities in time period and setting between the BBC’s surprise hit Call the Midwife and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Why do you think Call the Midwife has become such a popular program in both England and the United States, and what are some of the parallels between this show and your latest novel?

Viewers love Call the Midwife for many reasons, but some of the main reasons are because it’s a show about a character reflecting back on her life during the 1950s with new clarity and because of the rich themes of faith and morality that echo through the generations. Also, the stories take an honest look at both the beauty and sometimes sorrow that happen with each new birth. Each episode is authentic in its display of inner and external conflict while maintaining its focus on the relationship between God and humanity.

The story in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is also bound together by the journal entries of a character reflecting back on life in England during a similar era. I hope readers will appreciate the honest perspective of the challenges of an unexpected pregnancy and wrestle through their own emotions alongside the characters. Also similar to Call the Midwife, the themes of faith and grace are integral to this story.

Q: Could you tell us about the trip you took to research this book?

I visit all the main settings of my novels to capture the spirit and culture of each location along with the sights, sounds and even tastes of the area. I spent a week on a “whistle stop” tour of England last spring, exploring Oxford, London, Bristol and the lovely manor homes in the Cotswolds. I thoroughly enjoyed my many pots of English tea, sleeping in homes that were almost 1,000 years old and meandering through cottage gardens around Oxford. I also had the pleasure of meeting with friends and fellow novelists Carrie Turansky and Cathy Gohlke while they researched for their upcoming novels and then spending the day with a lovely British woman named Evelyn who thought my novel should be set in the quaint village called Bibury. Turns out, she was exactly right!

Q: You have said you almost feel a compulsion to write. What do you mean by that?

Someone gave me a red journal when I was seven, and I’ve loved to write and create stories ever since. I enjoy the challenge of researching and writing fiction, and when I’m not working on a new book, I’m either making up stories for my girls or dreaming about ideas for my next novel. I believe we all have talents and abilities that God wants us to use. Writing is life-giving to me, and I get cranky (as my family will confirm!) when I take too long of a break from my pen and paper.

Q: Ultimately, what is the main message of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor?

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor was my exploration of God’s light shining through the shadows of life, along with the beauty and power of His restoration through generations. The story is ultimately about transformation — how even in the hardest situations God can weave together a story of hope and redemption and create incredible beauty from the ashes of our lives.

To keep up with Melanie Dobson, visit www.melaniedobson.com, become a fan on Facebook (Melanie-Dobson) or follow her on Twitter (@MelBDobson).


Posted 7/17/15 at 8:57 AM |

Do Christians still believe in covenant marriage?

Author with Ph.D. in Clinical Christian Counseling shares her personal story of divorce and infidelity in new book

As prominent pastors continue to fall into sexual sin, the headlines betray the reality that many church leaders refuse to acknowledge. According to Barna Research, nearly one-third of born-again Christians admit to having extramarital affairs. A Christianity Today survey found that 23% of pastors admitted to sexually-inappropriate behaviors with someone other than their wives. On the Ashley Madison website, which introduces people who are already married or in relationships to other people, nearly 48% of the membership is made up of people who identify as “born-again” Christians or as Protestants. These are statistics that Dr. Carol Erb knows all too well, both professionally and personally. But in her home, the percentage was 100%. FULL POST

Posted 7/17/15 at 8:49 AM |

Pre-sales of new novel making a difference for those less fortunate

Pelican Book Group donates enough proceeds to Food for the Poor to pay for clean water pump for poor community, food and education

Even before it releases in August, the new fiction book from Pelican Book Group entitled Summer’s Flame, has already made its mark internationally. Pelican is donating proceeds from the sale of the new novel to Food for the Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the United States which serves the poorest of the poor in 17 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Through pre-sales alone of Summer’s Flame, Pelican has already been able to pay for a new clean water pump for a community, feed one child for a year, as well as send a child to school for a year. Pelican’s editor-in-chief, Nicola Martinez, says the venture has been consistent with the goals of the publishing company.

“As a publisher of Christian fiction, I’m privileged to provide readers with entertainment that instills hope and joy through the Gospel message,” says Martinez. "It’s a privilege and a responsibility to feed readers spiritually, to help bring someone to faith or to bolster the faith of a believer. But I ask myself often: is it enough? The book of James is very clear that faith and action go hand-in-hand by saying, ‘If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?’ (James 2:15-16 NAB) It would be easy for me to say that publishing is the action behind my faith—and on one level it is, because at Pelican Book Group, we’re helping to spread the gospel through fiction—but if I say my responsibility ends there, then I fear I am kidding myself. Books can’t quell a physical hunger, can’t warm a cold and trembling body, cannot quench a physical thirst, so it became clear to me that we needed to do more.” FULL POST

Posted 7/16/15 at 11:58 AM | Audra Jennings

Parents Cannot Leave their Children’s Spiritual Training Up to Youth Leaders

Part 2 of an interview with Dr. Michelle Anthony and Megan Fate Marshman,

Authors of 7 Family Ministry Essentials

Click here to read part one of this interview

7 Family Ministry Essentials by Michelle Anthony and Megan Marshman
David C Cook

In 7 Family Ministry Essentials, written for church leaders who have a passion to disciple kids and teens in partnership with the Holy Spirit and the family, Michelle Anthony and Megan Marshman capture the guiding essentials to build a strategy for life-changing family ministry in this ultimate leadership resource. These seven essentials emphasize:

1. Empowering families to take spiritual leadership in the home

2. Forming lifetime faith that transcends childhood beliefs

3. Teaching Scripture as the ultimate authority of truth

4. Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit to teach and transform

5. Engaging every generation in the gospel of God's redemptive story

6. Making God central in every biblical narrative and daily living

7. Participating in community with like-minded ministry leaders

In the interview below, the authors share more about the mission of their book.

Q: 7 Family Ministry Essentials call for a strategy change for children’s and student ministries. What are some of the most common practices that need to be changed in these ministries today?

Michelle Anthony, author of 7 Family Ministry Essentials
Photo credit: Traci London
Michelle Anthony

Anthony: The practices that need changing are the ones that don’t bear fruit. Just because we have always done something one way doesn’t mean it will be effective in this generation. We need to be willing to reimagine ministry based on meeting the needs in our generation. Tradition is a wonderful thing but not when it gets in the way of transformation. Yet change for change’s sake is also hollow. Leaders are best when they initiate change to breed a cultural change — meaning one that permeates the culture in such a way it remains long after we are gone and bears fruit.

Marshman: I would add that specifically within student ministries, leaders tell parents they are the primary disciplers of their children but oftentimes do nothing about it. Leaders have the opportunity not only to encourage parents to live out that role, but equip and support them with the resources to do so.

Students need space to meet with the living God during student ministry gatherings. Students also need opportunities to speak about their faith experiences within their faith community. It’s key for students not merely to agree with what their youth leaders are saying but to begin to live out and speak about the reality of their own personal faith inside and outside the walls of the church.

Q: What are some practical ways parents can make spiritual deposits into their child’s life?

Megan Marshman, author of 7 Family Ministry Essentials
Megan Marshman

Marshman: First and foremost, parents can make spiritual deposits into their child’s life by loving Jesus deeply. As parents deepen their love and dependence upon the Lord, it becomes easier to entrust their children into His hands. In moments of struggle, parents can surrender their children into the hands of a gracious God. In moments of triumph, parents will praise and worship God as the ultimate, generous gift giver.

Additionally, parents can put their honest faith journey on display. Admitting their weaknesses and showcasing their own dependence upon the Lord through every season can radically impact their child's life by modeling true discipleship.

Q: Why are parents quick to pick up a book about potty training or discipline, but hesitant to try to learn about how to teach their children spiritual discipleship? How can ministry leaders help them overcome their fears?

Anthony: We all want a quick fix. We all want to be in control of the outcomes of our children. Spiritual discipleship is neither of those. It is supernatural. Only God can change a heart or transform a life. We need His wisdom and His power. This requires us to be in an intimate relationship with God. Often parents’ faith is not that vibrant at the time of child-rearing, and it is impossible to give away something they don’t have. And even when it is vibrant, it is difficult to relinquish control and trust God to transform a child’s life when and as He chooses. Parents are required to be faithful and role models; they are not required to make their children spiritual.

Marshman: Ministry leaders can help parents overcome their fears by informing them of their role as a spiritual parent, to create environments for faith formation to come alongside what the Holy Spirit is doing in the life of their children. God doesn’t call them to change their children, God calls them to love Him, love them and entrust Him with the transformation.

Q: How can a youth or children’s minister foster the leadership a parent should have in their family, if that parent is overwhelmed and spiritually immature themselves?

Anthony: Baby steps. Meet them where they are at and disciple them just as we would a child or a teen. We must help them see the connection and then lead them one step at a time. Often we overwhelm them with all they should be doing. It’s not attractive for parents to think they are failing at yet another thing. We need to give them a small win!

Q: When one thinks about the state of the family, even within the church, it can feel hopeless. But you say it could change in as little as one generation. Why?

Marshman: We are in the midst of a movement. Typically, movements are things we look back on in the past. It’s critical to see in the past five years, family ministry has begun to take ground within churches. Church staffing structures are changing to include an emphasis on the families, youth pastors are joining in on the efforts, and children’s ministry leaders are impassioned like never before to recognize their jobs reach far beyond children. It could absolutely change in as little as one generation because God is on the move through family ministry. When you feel hopelessness, remember God is in the habit of using broken families for His glory.

Learn more about Dr. Michelle Anthony at www.michelleanthony.org, on Facebook or by following her on Twitter. Learn more about Megan Fate Marshman at www.meganfate.com, on Facebook or by following her on Twitter.

Posted 7/15/15 at 12:40 PM | Audra Jennings

Pamela Havey Lau Shares Five Patterns to Practice in Relationships

Part 2 of an interview with Pamela Havey Lau,

Author of A Friend in Me

Click here to read the complete Q&A!

Pamela Havey Lau, author of A Friend in Me
Pamela Havey Lau

Young women long for relational connection. Yet, without realizing it, more mature Christian women often distance themselves from women in their twenties and thirties because they use different language to talk about God or have different views on church and theology.

In A Friend in Me: How to be a Safe Haven for Other Women (David C Cook/June 1, 2015/ ISBN: 978-1434708649/ $15.99), Pam Lau shows readers how to be a safe place for the younger women in their lives. She offers five patterns women need to internalize and practice for initiating relationships and talking about issues such as faith, sexuality, and vocation. Most significantly, she reminds readers that when generations get together, they can have a global impact and experience a deeper personal faith than they’ve ever known.

Click here to watch Pamela Havey Lau talk about why she wrote A Friend in Me.

Q: Why do you think it’s harder for women of the younger generation to create meaningful connections with other women?

It’s hard for women from all generations to create meaningful connections, especially with today’s social media, but the younger ones have never known any different! While the need to connect hasn’t shifted, but the opportunities and ways we connect deeply have moved — and they continue to change rapidly. We have all the right tools to connect, but the sheer number of choices, our overall lack of commitment and the breakdown of strong family ties encourage us to live our lives as free agents. So like Dorie in Finding Nemo, we just keep on swimming, exhausting ourselves in the process. We just can’t see clearly to make satisfying connections that are certainly there!

The problem is there’s a gap that’s widening. The way the older generation talks about faith, sexuality and vocation can send the message, “I don’t agree with the way you’re living your life.” On the other hand, the way younger women work, support themselves financially and build relationships may send the message, “I am fine, and I don’t need your support.” However, I have discovered women all across the age groups desperately need and want close relationships with one another. Our greatest connections are already there — we just need the Spirit of God to open our eyes and soften our hearts.

Q: How would you define authenticity in a relationship?

When authenticity is alive and well in a relationship, people are honest about themselves and about how they feel when the other person hurts them or makes them feel loved. You can't feel loved if the other person isn't loving the real you. You have to come to the relationship as you are — not as you want someone to perceive you to be. That goes both ways. For a relationship to remain authentic, it can't be about transactions or who has done what for whom. It's also not bearing it all without any boundaries. As Christians, authentic relationship takes on a whole new level because we have Christ interceding for us and praying we will love one another as he loved his disciples while he was here. What can that look like here on earth? Christian authenticity is listening spiritually to one another's lives. We minister to each other as we listen to what the Spirit is saying or doing in another person's life. There's a passage in Hebrews that describes the Word of God as alive and active, cutting through everything. That's what authenticity looks like in a relationship where Christ is the center — it cuts us to our truest, most real self. The world is thirsty for Christian authenticity.

Q: Have you ever had trouble being authentic with the women in your life?

When authenticity is alive and well in a relationship, people are honest about themselves and about how they feel when the other person hurts them or makes them feel loved. You can't feel loved if the other person isn't loving the real you. So you have to come to the relationship as you are — not as you want someone to perceive you to be. That goes both ways. For a relationship to remain authentic, it can't be about transactions or who has done what for whom. It's also not bearing it all without any boundaries. As Christians, authentic relationship takes on a whole new level because we have Christ interceding for us and praying we will love one another as he loved his disciples while he was here. What can that look like here on earth? Christian authenticity is a spiritual listening to one another's lives. We minister to each other as we listen to what the Spirit is saying or doing in another person's life. There's a passage in Hebrews that describes the Word of God as alive and active, cutting through everything. That's what authenticity looks like in a relationship where Christ is the center — it cuts us to our truest, most real self. The world is thirsty for Christian authenticity.

Q: Why are cross-generational relationships so important? What is the biggest hindrance in making them work?

Cross-generational relationships are a reflection of the Church. We often spend time with people in our own age or life category, which can be rewarding, but we miss out on the history of life when we’re not with people ahead of us. Younger women need the connections with women ahead of them as they make life decisions. I love, love spending time with my younger women friends, and I work on remaining a safe haven. That’s the biggest hindrance in making cross-generational relationships work — learning how to be a safe haven. Until that happens, the younger women will remain spiritually independent, and that’s not God’s will for the Church universal.

When women are safe havens for one another, the need for spiritual independence decreases. When I read Peter’s reaction to Jesus washing his feet in John 13, I realize that’s what we say to one another when we so desperately need to love and be loved. “You’re not going to do that for me! I will take care of myself.” Jesus was the safest haven of all, and Peter still hadn’t trusted him!

A Friend in Me by Pamela Havey Lau
David C Cook

Q: As a busy wife and mother, what are some ways you build time into your life to make friendships a priority?

Once I accepted the fact I cannot survive without meaningful connections with women, I could identify ways to build quality time into my world. Here are a few: Once a week, I pull up my calendar and carefully scan the upcoming week. I look for a work-to-friend ratio. Am I working too many hours without taking a break? Do I have too many social connections scheduled in a week? Too many can drain me and keep me from connecting meaningfully, so I pace myself.

I also pay attention to the kinds of connections I need. For example, one woman serves more as a spiritual director, another walks closely with me in my writing, one woman prays with me weekly (sometimes daily) and another friend loves to run long distances. My point is not one woman can meet all my needs, and these friendships are reciprocal — so it’s never just about me. One mistake married women with children can make is to form all their friendships around their children’s friend’s parents. Although wonderful friendships can form from those years, I’ve seen over and over how women feel a deep sense of loneliness when their child leaves a school or a family decides to stop homeschooling.

Q: What are the five patterns you want women to internalize and practice in their relationships with other women?

I want women to practice and know how to talk about their own experiences so they can connect with women who are a bit behind them in life.

· The other side of pain and suffering

· The power of comfort

· Acting with understanding

· Knowing full forgiveness

· Relating with compassion

Learn more about Pamela Havey Lau and A Friend in Me at www.pamelalau.com, on Facebook (pamela.h.lau) or by following her on Twitter (@pamelahaveylau).

Posted 7/9/15 at 1:25 PM | Audra Jennings

Anita Higman Writes How a Dying Wish Alters a Young Woman’s Life

An interview with Anita Higman, Author of Summers List

Anita Higman, author of
Anita Higman

For a single girl in her 30s who longs to be married, it can be easy to feel a little lost when all your princes keep turning into frogs. Anita Higman details the twists and turns, triumphs and failures, in one young womans search for love in her new book, Summers List (River North/June 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-0802412324/$14.99).

Life hasn’t been easy for Summer Snow. She spent what should have been her carefree 20s selflessly caring for her ailing parents and denied herself the dreams in her heart to run her grandmother's bookstore. And if you asked her, she would say she’s mostly happy — but she knows she’s missing something — and her grandmother’s love doesn’t fill that aching part of her heart that longs for love and romance.

Q: In three sentences or less, tell us about your new book.

A young woman, Summer Snow is sent on an unexpected adventure with Martin Langtree, a kind but gangly young man from Summer's past. A childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer.

Q: What is the main theme that runs through Summers List?

Forgiveness and reconciliation do not come naturally to mankind, but it’s the only right way to live. It’s the way Christ taught us to live.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the story?

My answer isn’t romantic. It’s not literary sounding in any way. It’s the kind of answer that lets you see behind the curtain. I hope it doesn’t spoil any of the magic for you, but here’s my answer. It’s always been easy for me to create quirky characters but not so easy to create conflict that can keep going for 80,000 words. So I thought if a heroine had a list of things she was compelled to do — and the list was challenging and fun, with surprises along the way — that this concept could create enough plot and conflict to get me through to the end of a book. I’ll let you decide if my idea worked or not!

Q: Your heroine, Summer Snow, is used to putting others interests before her own. We are taught to serve others, but is there a point when selflessness can become damaging?

Yes. It could be that Summer’s parents should have insisted she at least attend a local college so she could prepare for her future while she was watching over them. Even loving parents can make selfish decisions at times.

Q: Can you identify with Summers search for love?

Yes, before I met my husband I was sort of lost in love like Summer. But I was fortunate enough to find my husband without a life-list.

Q: Why do you think the number of people delaying marriage into their 30s and even beyond is growing?

I don’t know for sure, but my guess is they are frightened of commitment. The reason may be because the divorce rate has some pretty scary statistics attached to it. For some men and women, maybe it feels hopeless for a marriage to last a lifetime. But it is possible. My husband and I have been married 35 years. We don’t have a perfect marriage, but we’re committed to each other, and we love each other. If we were to fall out of love someday, I know our commitment would keep us safe until we could fall in love all over again. My advice is to love freely, forgive easily and invite God to be ever-present in your marriage.

Q: What expectations and social pressures are put upon single women in the church?

Perhaps they feel if they can’t find Mr. Right, then they are somehow second-class women. That is, of course, not true. But people in the church need to be sensitive to those who do not marry. We should never exclude them or make them feel they are somehow unacceptable or unlovable if they remain single.

Q: Can it be dangerous for women to believe in the notion of a soul mate or one single person whom God has for you to find and marry?

Yes, I suppose it could be a dangerous mindset because when you get bored or angry with your spouse — which is very common in most marriages — then it’s easy to think you’ve made a grave error in your choice and someone else was your true destiny and would make you happier. That kind of faulty thinking is an effective way to dismantle a marriage.

Q: What is the best advice you have for someone who truly longs for marriage?

Tell God the desires of your heart. He cares deeply for us. But in my opinion, it wouldn’t be wrong to consider using a good Christian dating service. I know of a woman right now who is living her happily-ever-after because of one of these services.

Summer's List by Anita Higman
River Noth

Q: Summers story is unique, as she completes the bucket list her Grandmother made for her. What are some other ways single women can connect with their purpose in life, despite their disappointments?

Make a list of all the talents God has given you, and then go about using them for His glory. You’ll find satisfaction and purpose in doing what you were created to do.

Q: Have you ever made a bucket list? How did it change your life?

I’ve not made a bucket list, but my husband and I have made a list of places we’d like to travel to before we journey to heaven. Some places left on that list are Israel, Greece and Norway. Can’t wait!

Q: Why do Gods plans for our lives often look so very different than our own?

Because we see through a glass darkly while we’re here on earth. If we could see more as God does, we would have different plans. They would come closer to lining up with His ways, and there would be much less turmoil and disappointment.

Q: Summer manages a children’s bookshop. Was there someone in your childhood who helped instill in you a love for literature?

My mother read fairytales to me when I was a little girl. Those stories had a profound effect on me. People have told me my novels read a little like modern fairytales. My husband and I are about to break ground on our retirement home. Can you guess what it is? It’s a fairytale house in the woods. Stories stay with us for a lifetime!

Q: You are, in fact, very enthusiastic about promoting literacy and have even won awards for your efforts in that arena. Why is that such an important cause for you?

If people can’t read, I’m out of business. But beyond that reasoning, I always hope all people are able to read and know the power of words. Imagine going a lifetime without reading Oliver Twist or Pride and Prejudice or the Bible!

Q: What is the number-one message you want your readers to receive from Summer’s List?

My brand is “Stories with a soft landing because life is hard.” I hope readers finish all my books with a lighter heart and a sense of joy and hope.

To keep up with Anita Higman, visit www.anitahigman.com become a fan on Facebook (AuthorAnitaHigman) or follow her on Twitter (@anitahigman).

Posted 7/8/15 at 12:29 PM | Audra Jennings

Does Social Media Keep Us From Making Authentic Connections?

Part 1 of an interview with Pamela Havey Lau,

Author of A Friend in Me

Click here to read the complete Q&A!

Pamela Havey Lau, author of A Friend in Me
Pamela Havey Lau

With 232 million people using Twitter every month and more than 1.3 billion people on Facebook last year, it’s safe to say we live in an incredibly “connected” world. Yet with hundreds of friends and loved ones just a click away on social media or a text away on the phone, why do so many women feel isolated and alone? With ladies longing for meaningful connections to help them grow in their faith and find emotional wholeness, now is the perfect time for Pamela Havey Lau’s new book, A Friend in Me: How to be a Safe Haven for Other Women (David C Cook/June 1, 2015/ ISBN: 978-1434708649/ $15.99).

Women today also crave relational connection with women who are further ahead of them on their journey. So many want mentors, guides and role models to whom they can bring their accomplishments and failures to feel affirmed, mutually respected and understood. In A Friend in Me, Lau shows women how to be a safe place for those who are in earlier stages of life than they are, teaching them habits for strengthening bonds such as offering comfort, acting with understanding and relating with compassion.

Click here to watch Pamela Havey Lau talk about why she wrote A Friend in Me.

Q: You say the themes in A Friend in Me have been forming in you for your entire adult life. Can you tell us more about that?

When I was in my early 20s, I had an insatiable desire to understand spiritual things but felt trapped by what I read and saw in Christian media and the church. My own family fell apart when I was a teenager, so in many ways my early adult years were a time of healing. I couldn’t find examples of women I could identify with. It was tempting to become spiritually independent. I even used my graduate thesis project to explore this journey by looking at mediated images of women. What opened my heart and mind fully to the things of God was deeper relationships with key women along the way. Certain women’s relationship with me and their ways of being close to me softened my heart toward the Kingdom, to the real person of Jesus Christ. This was particularly true in my early adult years as my faith was becoming more of my own. The ones, however, who made the biggest impact on my faith were women who didn’t compartmentalize my vocation or my personal life but related Christ to the whole of who I was. Through these relationships I discovered that coming from a broken home, being single or married, becoming a mother, being a working woman or leaving my career, experiencing painful losses, enjoying successes — none of these things were more powerful than my identity in Christ.

Q: How have social media and technology both helped and hindered intimate friendships?

Overall, it seems social media keeps us connected to people we wouldn’t normally reach out to, especially people from our past. Research shows that high use of Facebook can cause depression among women. My friends tell me that Facebook makes them jealous or brings up a fear of missing out faster than anything else. Does that mean social media outlets are evil? No. It just means that’s what really is in our hearts. The question becomes are we prepared to do what we need to do to keep our hearts clean when using all kinds of media? It’s like we’re on fast-forward relationally, and not much else kills intimacy in friendship than comparing, jealousy or feeling left out.

I love Skype and FaceTime because many of my intimate friends are around the nation and the world. Once a week, my friend and I dialogue about NT Wright’s latest Bible study via Skype. It’s like we are sitting together in my living room. In our case, technology has absolutely helped our friendship as our time together doesn’t require traffic jams, long drives or finding places to meet. Texting is an amazing device to send/receive prayer requests or to just check in with someone. Texting can be toxic when it’s used for solving conflict. Relying solely on texting can create misunderstandings. No amount of emoji can replace human facial expression. As much as I can, I try to meet someone in person, talk on the phone or use Skype. If that’s not possible, I move to text or social media.

Q: Tell us what personal tragedy caused you to realize finally how deeply you needed to be in close relationships with other women?

The day before our third wedding anniversary, my brother-in-law and his fiancée were killed in a head-on collision on their way home from visiting family in Oklahoma. I write about it more extensively in the book, but I realized after six months of drowning in grief how much I needed constant support and input as I walked through suffering with my young husband. Even more, I needed to hear how women got to the other side of their suffering. The only way I could ever know stories like that was by truly knowing them, not just hearing about them

Q: What would you say is the primary factor that holds women back from truly loving other women?

Obviously, each woman is unique in her growing-up years, her make-up and her relational needs. First, I would say it’s a spiritual battle; the enemy wants women divided and distanced from one another. If I could identify the primary factor that holds women back from truly loving other women, it would be safety. When an agenda is introduced into the relationship, hearts begin to shrink. Increasingly, women’s relationships are not safe places for other women to find rest, encouragement, motivation, prayer and support. We don’t need to be uniformly like-minded to have another woman’s back. Having someone who is for her with no strings attached — that’s the sense she wants and needs from other women so she can let her guard down, receive some ministry and hear from God.

For some women, loving other women well has never been modeled for them, and that’s a problem as the next generation is watching us to see how beautiful, loving, life-giving relationships are formed.

Q: What are some practical steps women can take to start and form deep friendships?

A Friend in Me by Pamela Havey Lau
David C Cook

First of all, ask yourself if you sense a need for deeper connections. If you can answer that with an honest affirmation, then the next step is to pray and ask God for what you need. While you are praying, learn to initiate. Initiating with another woman feels risky because we all know the “Hey, let’s get together some time” routine, and it doesn’t ever happen. The more women initiate with one another and follow through, the greater the chances are of making a lasting a connection. See initiating as planting seeds, and watch your crop grow.

When you finally get together, the two most important steps you can take is to ask good questions and listen. Madeleine L’Engle once said something like this: If more of us had a friend whom we could share our deepest selves with, there wouldn’t be a need for professional counselors. I’m not suggesting we don’t need professional mental health care — we do! Nevertheless, many of our struggles and problems could be ironed out with the care and concern of close friends.

Does that mean friendship exists only to serve as a sounding board? Absolutely not! And that’s the art of true friendship — to enjoy one another, have fun, celebrate the good, share life and shopping and insights. And when the suffering times come — which they always do — mourn with those who mourn. Learn to comfort, to show up at midnight when the phone rings, to pray for your friend.

Q: Many women are wary of being vulnerable with other women because they’ve been burned in the past. What are ways women can make sure they’re safe havens for others?

The more women can become humble in their relationships, the greater the chances are of becoming a safe haven for other women. Two areas women are longing for more vulnerability from other women are in vocation and sexuality. I’ve discovered it’s in these two areas in which we can easily feel miserable because not enough of us are talking about them safely. Once we’ve determined to put aside any agenda to fix another woman, she can open up to us. As long as we remember her number-one identity is in Christ and not in an image we want her to have, we can lessen the chances of “burning” her. I think that goes both ways.

I devoted an entire chapter to sexuality. After years of working with college students, I saw the damage we can create when we don’t talk openly about sex. Christian women across the globe can become safe havens for others as they swallow their wrong attitudes and fears about sex and listen to what other women need to ask or say. No matter our beliefs on homosexuality, pornography or other sexual issues, we must develop a grit and vocabulary to have these conversations. Why would we want the culture to have a stronger voice than the Church?

Q: What is your prayer for your readers as they dig into A Friend in Me?

I’m praying for a movement around the globe for women to find satisfaction, healing and safety in closer relationships with the women God has placed in their lives. For the believing women who are silently suffering from depression, anger or hard to share emotions, I am praying for them to find a safe haven so they can be ministered to. From that movement, I’m praying for women who don’t know Jesus Christ to look on and say, “I want that! I want the kind of relationships those women are having!” My prayer is that as they examine what other women have, they will see the merciful, forgiving, compassionate, comforting love of God.

Learn more about Pamela Havey Lau and A Friend in Me at www.pamelalau.com, on Facebook (pamela.h.lau) or by following her on Twitter (@pamelahaveylau).

load more