Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.
Posted 2/3/16 at 3:33 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 2 of An interview with Brad Hewitt,
Author of Your New Money Mindset
As Christians, most of us would like to be more generous. We’d like to give more to the church, ministries and charities that do good. However, often times we feel there’s not room in the budget to give more.
Giving generously isn’t necessarily about how much we give, it’s our attitude towards giving. The ultimate goal for readers of Your New Money Mindset (Tyndale House Publishers) is to cultivate what author Brad Hewitt calls a surplus mindset, where individuals truly believe they have enough for themselves and enough to share. He adds, “We believe if people — especially Christians — could have a healthier relationship with money, it would change the world. People can be free from the slavery of a consumer culture, enabling them to live openheartedly with their time, energy and finances."
Regardless of their current financial situation, all readers are invited to journey toward transforming their relationship with money by remaking their heart.
Breaking away from the regular mold of financial books, Your New Money Mindset:
Q: What are the five money mindsets you cover in the book? Which is the best mindset to have?
In Your New Money Mindset, we have identified five distinct attitudes people hold toward money and to all that they have and own. These “money mindsets” describe how people think and feel about their financial well-being — or lack of it. Since each category begins with the letter S, we call these the “5Ss.” The five attitudes on the spectrum range from unhealthy to healthy: surviving, struggling, stable, secure and surplus. We believe the healthiest place to be is in a surplus mindset, which can bring deep peace and freedom. It means deciding “we have enough for ourselves and enough to share.”
Before we talk about each S, we share this truth: the health of your relationship with money is not determined by how much money you have or don’t have. Most people believe that the more money they earn or otherwise possess, the healthier their relationship with money will be. That is an illusion. Put succinctly, you can have a high income yet struggle, or you can have a modest income yet thrive.
Q: Have you ever struggled with one of the negative mindsets? If so, how did you overcome it?
I struggle every day, so I must focus on the practices of gratitude, generosity, prayer and Christian community.
Years ago we purchased a fractional ownership in a Colorado townhouse, which grants us two weeks of winter access. All year long I look forward to basking in the Rocky Mountain grandeur. I count on it to sweep me into God’s presence and renew an appreciation of all his good gifts. But even as those wonders fill me, they can also put my heart into a frenzy faster than I like to admit. One minute I’m thanking God for his blessings. The next I’m gawking at a new row of bigger and better vacation homes and thinking, I want one. To be clear, I don’t need one. Coming back to the familiar townhouse always feels like a lavish blessing. By any measure we already have more than enough. Nevertheless, my gratitude can quickly be displaced by a longing for more. At the moment those misguided desires well up inside me, I face a choice. I can continue to stare at the thing I want. I can obsess over it all the way home. I can calculate what a fancy new place costs. I can loudly convince myself and my family I need it. Or I can act to break that cycle.
We break our persistent desire for more when we choose to live generously. I’m not talking about an occasional act of benevolence. The solution to my yearning for a bigger and better place isn’t to ski to the bottom of the hill and write a one-time check to a worthy cause. The long-term fix is cultivating a day-by-day pattern of openhearted giving. It’s pursuing a way of life that puts a happy generosity first.
Q: Why do so many people view financial surplus as an indication of God’s blessing? Is that view always accurate?
I don’t know why so many people do, but this idea is not accurate at all. God regularly declares the poor as blessed. Material blessings have nothing to do with God’s love or grace. Research shows that as people live godly, generous lives, the result is often financial success. However, I do not believe this is an indication of God’s blessing, but merely how the world was created to work.
Q: Many people feel they aren’t financially secure enough to share generously. How critical is tithing to a Christian’s financial plans?
Tithing is important because it reframes our financial worldview from a scarcity mentality of relying on money for our security to an abundance mentality of relying on God. When we do this, we actually feel more financially secure.
Tithing allows us to express our faithfulness even with little so we can build our character to be faithful and entrusted with much. When we tithe, we acknowledge we are stewards of what God has provided us. Tithing isn’t an “ought to” or a “have to,” it’s a “get to.”
We live in a world where we are bombarded by messages of consumerism and fear. This is part of the reason why establishing a healthy relationship with money is important. If we allow messages contrary to God’s Word to guide our relationship with money, we will never believe we have enough to live joyful, generous lives. A recent Thrivent Financial survey of 1000 American Christians found that 42 percent said their top obstacle to giving is that they can’t afford to give, and 62 percent of Christians felt they’d need to make $5,000 or more a year than they already do to donate more. However, our research tells a different story and has shown that when we make more money, we usually don’t give more, even if we had planned to.
Q: What did Jesus’ words and actions say about what it means to live generously?
Jesus makes money a crucial topic. It’s impossible to miss in Scripture how often he talks about our unhealthy relationship with money and how easily we make money an idol that usurps more important things. Jesus aims to lead us to life abundant, generous and content.
One of the pivotal passages in the book is Proverbs 11:24, which says, “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”
Q: What is the Money Mindset Assessment, and what will it help readers discover?
Because real change starts within us, we need to remake our hearts in order for new habits fully to take hold. It is often difficult, however, to have an objective view of what goes on inside us. To help us get an accurate view we worked with Thrivent’s research and analysis team to develop the New Money Mindset Assessment ™, a 48-item tool to give you insights into your own thinking. The assessment is a free online tool at www.newmoneymindset.com. The tool takes about 10 minutes to complete. The self-assessment isn’t about how much money you have or don’t have, but about how you perceive your relationship with money. Thrivent’s research team created this self-assessment specifically to help you discover your money mindset strengths as well as opportunities for growth.
Posted 1/31/16 at 1:43 PM | Audra Jennings
Advised by both tellers of fairy tales and harbingers of doom, many engaged couples don’t know what to expect from marriage. They may believe God created the institution, but many of the unions around them exhibit frustration or end in heartache. Other couples focus their energies on planning the perfect wedding day instead of preparing a relational foundation on which their lives together can be built.
Rob Green, a pastor and veteran pre-marital counselor, provides young couples with a blueprint to follow in his new book, Tying the Knot: A Premarital Guide to a Strong and Lasting Marriage (New Growth Press/February 1, 2016/ISBN: 978-1942572596/ $17.99). Green assures couples the joy, fun and love they hope for is not wishful, romantic thinking; it’s God’splan for marriage. It’s also within reach for every couple willing to do the work needed to center their relationship on Jesus intentionally.
For Green, a person’s walk with the Lord and their marriage are inseparable. “There are many moments in marriage where our commitment to Christ is challenged,” he shares. “What happens when one spouse wants to be intimate and the other doesn’t? When one spouse says something mean to the other? Tens of thousands of these scenarios will occur in 50 years of a relationship. How one responds to them will be rooted in the strength of their walk with Christ.”
Tying the Knot offers soon-to-be-married couples a practical vision of what a Christ-centered marriage looks like, with advice that is realistic, hopeful and actionable. The nine-session study guides couples through issues such as conflict, expectations, communication, finances and intimacy, showing how every challenge can be resolved successfully through making Christ the priority in their life and relationship. “I tell couples you were not created to be each other’s savior,” Green reveals. “You were designed to be a spouse because the job of savior has already been filled. When couples live for Jesus, they will live obediently to the Word, focused on prayer, dedicated to service and willing to give of themselves for the betterment of others.”
Knowing the stresses and needs of a couple during their season of engagement, Green has designed the study to require a manageable 60-90 minutes of at-home work per session, with questions and exercises to build communication and intimacy at the end of each chapter. Tying the Knot also includes an appendix for mentors, making it easy for a seasoned married couple, lay leader or counselor to lead an engaged couple through the book.
Green hopes Tying the Knot will put couples on the path to becoming the godly examples young people need to cut through the cynicism in our culture toward marriage. Readers of the book will find the resources they need to reorient their life and relationship, making it possible for them to experience all the blessings of this institution as God designed it.
About the author
Rob Green has been the pastor of counseling and seminary ministries at Faith Church in Lafayette, Ind., since 2005. His responsibilities there include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. Green wasn’t always a pastor; he has a B.S. in engineering physics from Ohio State University and after college wrote computer programs to process credit cards. After feeling a call to the ministry he entered seminary, eventually earning a M.Div. and a Ph.D. from Baptist Bible Seminary.
Green also serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and has authored a number of counseling mini books. He and his wife, Stephanie, have three children: Joseph, Samuel and Mackenzie. The family makes their home in Indiana.
Learn more about Rob Green’s ministry work at blogs.faithlafayette.org/counseling.
Posted 1/19/16 at 8:53 AM | Audra Jennings
If God is good then why does He allow terrible things to happen? It’s a universal question asked by believers and skeptics alike. Some decide no answer exists, but not Sherri Burgess, the author of Bronner: A Journey to Understand (New Hope Publishers/January 19, 2016/ISBN: 978-1-62591-500-9/$16.99). When Burgess and her husband, Rick (host of the nationally syndicated “The Rick and Bubba Show”), lost their two-year-old son in a tragic drowning at home, she turned to God with the same question, and in her grief, learned there are answers. What she discovered about the Lord and herself she now brings to the world in this special book, which Grammy Award-winning recording artist Chris Tomlin said left him “speechless.”
Bronner is an honest and personal narrative that took Burgess five years to write. It brings readers along on her journey of seeking to understand the purpose behind her family’s pain. While admitting we can never truly grasp all aspects of God’s nature, Burgess says she found there were many things she could ascertain about Him, His purposes, and His intentions for herself and her family. “God wants us to ask hard questions,” she reveals. “He wants us to seek Him, and if we do, He promises we will find Him. God’s way is perfect. He wastes nothing but uses everything to teach us, grow us, and mold us into something fit for heaven. We praise Him as Job did when he said, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken way; blessed be the name of the Lord.’”
Scripture says Christians do not mourn like those who have no hope, and that is certainly the case for Burgess and her family. While they are separated from little Bronner for now, Burgess knows that won’t always be the case. She points out with incredible hope that no matter what horror or loss we face, if Christ is our Savior, we are assured He will redeem everything in time, whether in this life or the next.
Much more than a retelling of one family’s story, Bronner includes a readers’ guide that will be an empowering and in-depth resource for grief support groups, book-club discussions, or small-group Bible studies. Readers will learn how the author believes the Lord has used suffering for good in her life: teaching her, refining her, and even helping her overcome sins such as worldliness, self-reliance, and pride. “There are but two ways to go in a situation like this,” Burgess writes. “We can either run away from God and be destroyed by the pain, or run to Him and be transformed by it into the person He really desires for us to be. God has taught—and is still teaching—me so much through my pain.”
Regardless of what hardship readers have experienced, Bronner will be a call to action, beckoning them to know God like never before. Burgess’s personal hope is that Bronner will help others understand God doesn’t do anything to hurt them, but He allows suffering to occur in life to form them into the people He meant for them to be: people who love and trust Him with a devotion that can withstand any trial.
About the author
A former news anchor turned author, Burgess is also mother to two teenage sons at home and two adult children. She currently serves on the school board where her sons attend, leads a girls’ Bible study, and volunteers with various organizations. Her heart is deeply committed to living out God’s will for her life and helping others do the same. While her family may enjoy football, she enjoys her family. She also enjoys gardening and going on short-term missions trips. Her prayer is that the loss of her youngest son, Bronner, will continue to produce fruit for God for many years to come. The Burgess family calls Birmingham, AL, home.
<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/152105053" width="500" height="199" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="https://vimeo.com/152105053">Bronner | A Journey to Understand Trailer</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/ethanmilner">Ethan Milner</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>
Posted 1/12/16 at 3:35 PM | Audra Jennings
Shame can cause people to make drastic, sometimes life-altering decisions. When they experience the consequences of failure, whether at their own hands or at the hands of others, their instinct can be to retreat to avoid experiencing hurt again. That knee-jerk reaction can strain relationships and lead to isolation. This is one of the themes award-winning author Colleen Coble chose to examine in the second book in her Sunset Cove series, Mermaid Moon (Thomas Nelson/January 12, 2016/ISBN:978-1401690281/$15.99).
Remorse and confusion has kept single mom Mallory Davis from her hometown of sleepy Down East, Maine, for the last 15 years. When her father mysteriously dies, though, she’s forced to return. Her relationship with her father had been tense since she left, but she was the one he called in his final moments. His last words echo in her heart: “Find . . . mother.” Yet her mother has been dead for fifteen years. What could he have possibly meant?
Mallory comes to believe her father was murdered, and her childhood sweetheart, Down East game warden Kevin O’Connor, confirms her suspicions. Mallory trampled Kevin’s heart when she left without a word all those years ago, and he is wary of helping Mallory in her search. Everything changes when Mallory begins receiving threats on her life and the life of her teenage daughter, Haylie. As their search intensifies, they find a tangled web of mystery and deceit whose sticky threads reach deep into Mallory’s past. As answers begin to fall into place, Mallory realizes her search is about much more than finding her father’s killer; it’s about the hope of finding herself again — and maybe even another chance at love. She just has to stay alive long enough to put the pieces together.
The twists and turns of Mermaid Moon will keep readers engaged in its fast-paced story, but beyond entertainment, Coble hopes all will walk away knowing where to turn when they’re ready to find healing and freedom from regret. “Personal shame strikes at our core because we feel we can never make up for that failure. We fear the relationship can never be mended,” Coble explains. “God doesn’t want us to carry around that burden of guilt. We can be free of it if we realize He forgave it along ago. We’re the ones still lugging it around.”
Coble is currently working on the third installment in the Sunset Cove series, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens. Coble says readers will definitely pick up on a specific theme as they read each book. “I wanted these books to examine the various ways we all come to family,” she reveals. “Some are born into a family, some are adopted, and some create their own family with friends.”
About the Author
Best-selling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice and the Booksellers Best.
She has more than three million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Coble is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband, Dave, in Indiana.
Posted 1/11/16 at 4:56 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 1 of An interview with Brad Hewitt,
Author of Your New Money Mindset
Now that we’ve approached the second week of January, all of the Christmas decorations have been packed away and most of us have already cheated on our diets or broken another resolution are two. Even the gifts that topped our Christmas wish lists have lost a little bit of their shine. After all, the joy we expected the latest gadget or comfort item to bring didn’t quite live up to expectations. Perhaps it’s the child in all of us that thinks that a particular item will make things better. Even as adults, we often have that mindset with material goods or simply money in general. “If I just had more.”
However, as Brad Hewitt, President and CEO of Thrivent Financial writes in Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money (Tyndale House Publishers written with psychologist Dr. Jim Moline), the belief of simply having more will solve all of these problems is completely false. Through personal anecdotes, scripture and timely research, the authors reveal that security has much more to do with one’s relationship with money rather than money itself. They invite readers to spend more time examining their fundamental attitudes toward the money they have and aligning those views with their core values. FULL POST
Posted 12/29/15 at 9:06 AM | Audra Jennings
An interview with James L. Rubart,
Author of The Five Times I Met Myself
What if you met your 23-year-old self in a dream? What would you say? No matter how young or how old, there’s a part of us all that wishes we could go back and tell ourselves what we should have done differently. It’s a desire award-winning author James L. Rubart explores in his new novel, The Five Times I Met Myself (Thomas Nelson/November 10, 2015/ISBN: 978-1401686116/$15.99).
Q: The Five Times I Met Myself explores the main character’s desire to go back in time and change certain decisions. Was the idea behind the book driven by any of your own regrets?
Actually, no. While my novel Memory’s Door was definitely driven by my own regrets — and having to figure out how to deal with them — The Five Times I Met Myself was more driven by hope for the future. I don’t think it’s ever too late to start living with freedom. I don’t think there’s any brokenness God can’t breathe healing and life into. So while my main character, Brock, does deal with regret, in the end this is a story about restoration and great hope going forward.
Q: What would you say to your younger self if you had the opportunity?
Wow, you’re not trying to make me get vulnerable, are you? Such a great question. There are many things I’d say, but I’ll mention just three for the moment. I’d tell myself to take more risks — that you’re never ready to take them, so just “jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down” (Ray Bradbury). I’d also tell myself to stop worrying about what anyone else thinks: about you, your dreams, your life, who you should be or shouldn’t be. Worrying can be such a deterrent from living a life of freedom. Finally, I’d tell myself this life is shorter than you can imagine when you’re young, so live like it.
Q: Why did you choose to make dreams such a big part of this story? What is lucid dreaming?
Dreams are powerful. Sometimes we know exactly what they mean, and they speak to us deeply. Other times we never figure them out. But haven’t we all told a friend, “Wow, you’re not going to believe the dream I just had”? I think most of us are fascinated with dreams. Plus I wanted a way to have my main character talk to himself in a way that didn’t involve time travel. This isn’t science fiction, so I wanted to discover a way for the older and younger Brock to connect that could actually happen in real life.
Lucid dreaming is simply being conscious or aware you’re dreaming. Most of the people I’ve talked to about lucid dreaming have had this experience. After researching lucid dreaming, I discovered it can be a powerful tool, among other things, to help people overcome their fears, bring emotional healing and find a new level of creativity in their lives.
Q: What does the Bible teach us about dreams?
The Bible teaches that sometimes dreams are much more than our subconscious minds working out the events that happened during the day. Sometimes God uses them to speak to us and to shape significant events in our lives and the lives of others. In the Old Testament Joseph had dreams that changed all of Egypt. In the New Testament, God told Joseph not to divorce Mary in a dream. Acts 2:17 says, “In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’” I believe God is still using dreams to change the lives of his children.
Q: How seriously do you take your own dreams? Have you ever had a dream that changed your life?
I take them very seriously. I don’t think it happens all the time, but there are times where God will speak to us through a dream.
In fact, I’ve had a number of dreams that changed my life. I’ve gotten story ideas from dreams as well.
Q: Much of Brock’s validation in life has come from his work. Do you think that’s common in this day and age?
I think it’s common in every age. We are tempted to look outside ourselves for validation: money, friends, accomplishments, success, awards, children, spouses. We search for validation in many things other than God that will never fill us in the end. When Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had, it wasn’t to crash the guy’s party. Jesus simply knew if the guy hung onto to any of his things (in his heart), it would ultimately drain him of all true life.
Q: How will readers be able to relate to Brock’s efforts to reconnect with his wife in midlife, after years of drifting apart?
I think for readers who might have drifted apart from their own spouses there will be one of two reactions: Either they won’t want to face the light the book shines on their relationship, or they’ll get a massive dose of hope and encouragement for healing — life will be infused back into their union.
Q: Has sibling rivalry ever been an issue in your family like in Brock’s?
A great many of my own experiences find their way into my novels, but not in this case. I was watching the reality TV show Survivor a few seasons back where two brothers were on the show together. I saw massive amounts of pain between them and, at the same time, huge amounts of love for each other. All that pain and love were mixed together and painted an intriguing portrait of brothers who loved and hated each other in equal measure. Fascinating, and I think quite common between siblings. So that dynamic made it into the novel.
Q: Is the kind of hope and restoration many are looking for possible without actually being able to go back and change something from the past?
Without question. As I mentioned earlier, this life is short. If you believe this is all there is, then I understand why people would despair. However, I’m one of those who believe in an afterlife, where Jesus says all things will become new. He doesn’t say all new things. This is important. He says all things new. All things. All those moments of pain and longing and regret will be made NEW. A good new. A tremendous new. Restored. Redeemed. Made right. Jesus came to restore that which was lost. I think there’s going to be a lot of celebrating of the things that will be restored in the coming kingdom. As for the present? There’s no point in looking back. It’s gone. But we can start living each day, this day, this moment, with hope and a determination to change our actions, to make choices that bring life to ourselves and those around us and to step into freedom in a way we never have before.
Q: Your desire to become a writer was inspired by one of the greatest Christian thinkers in modern history. Tell us about that.
I’m 11, and my mom buys my sister and me The Chronicles of Narnia for Christmas. I’m tearing through the books, falling massively in love with Aslan, and there’s this moment when I get to the final pages of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that blows my mind.
Remember the scene where Aslan tells Edmund and Lucy they can’t come back, but that He’s also in their world even though he goes by a different name? My little 11-year-old pea brain explodes when I realize Aslan is Jesus, Jesus is Aslan. Even at that tender age, I realized that telling a story about Jesus was much more powerful than learning facts about him. In that moment I started to dream that someday I might have the chance to immerse people in stories the way Lewis had done with me and show them Jesus and God in a whole new way.
Q: Describe for us your secret writing room, where you wrote The Five Times I Met Myself.
This will be painful since my wife and I recently moved, and I had to give up my writing room! We lived in a house built in the late 80s when the style was to have a 20-foot ceiling in the entryway with a chandelier hanging down.
Picture an elevator shaft going up to the second floor of our house when you first walk in. I always thought all you’d have to do is build a floor to get a secret room. The walls, ceiling, and even a window were already in. So I did it. The room was accessed through the back of my youngest son’s closet. You stepped through a little door into our attic, and about ten feet into the attic, you stepped through another small door that led into the writing room. I have a photo of it on my website.
Turns out the folks who bought our house are James L. Rubart readers, so they could truly appreciate the secret room. On top of that, they’re aspiring writers themselves. It’s fun to know the legacy of writing in that secret room will continue.
Q: What are some of the strongest influences on your writing?
My wife isn’t a big fiction reader, but she’s brilliant at nuance and relationship. She shapes my novels to a greater degree than she realizes. I ask her if something rings true or not, and she’s always spot-on with her counsel. Extremely grateful for her.
Q: It sounds like you and your wife have a great relationship. Other than her, tell me about two or three of the other most important relationships in your life?
Without question I have to mention our two sons, Taylor and Micah. I dedicated The Five Times I Met Myself to them by saying, “What dad could be prouder?” So true. I’m crazily blessed because Taylor and Micah are not only seriously outstanding young men, they are two of my best friends.
Q: What message do you hope readers to walk away with from The Five Times I Met Myself?
I believe there’s a part of us all that wishes we could go back and tell our younger selves what we should have done differently, whether we’re 20 or 40 or 60 or 80 years old. We wonder how our lives would have turned out if we’d made different choices. And we want hope and restoration and freedom in the midst of examining those choices we did or did not make.
I wanted to explore those questions and give readers the chance to search through those questions in their own lives. By the end of the novel I want to offer hope and restoration for the choices they would or wouldn’t have made if they had the opportunity to do things over.
Andy Andrews describes the book as being life-changing. That’s exactly my hope: that people’s lives would be changed after reading The Five Times I Met Myself. I’ve had people say my books are not fluffy reading, that they stick with people months and years afterward. I hope that’s true. I want my stories to seep into people’s minds and, more importantly, their hearts and help them step into greater freedom for a long, long time.
Posted 12/17/15 at 2:07 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Rachel Hauck,
Author of The Wedding Chapel
In a day when marriage seems disposable, USA Today best-selling author Rachel Hauck weaves a story that reminds us of love’s timeless truths.
Hauck’s The Wedding Chapel (Zondervan/November 17, 2015/ISBN: 9780310341529/ $15.99), a slip time story set in the late 1940s/early 1950s, captures the romance and hope of a post-war South while the contemporary timeline wrestles with the challenges and complications of commitment in the modern world.
Q: What inspired the plotline of The Wedding Chapel?
This book came from the old saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I needed a new story idea, and while on vacation in Tennessee I drove past a wedding chapel called Chapel in the Glen. I pitched the title to my publisher a few minutes later. She and the team loved it. And I was off to find a story to go with it.
Q: Why did you choose to marry a classic love story from the 1940s with a modern tale of romance gone off-course?
I like to look at all aspects of life in a novel. Maybe it’s hindsight or the Golden Age of Hollywood, but romance seemed sweeter in the post-war 1940s. Coming out of a depression followed by war, men and women seemed devoted to getting back to basics, just living life, and loving each other and family. (I’m sure it was not as rosy as I imagine.)
In our day, people can walk away from a relationship so easily at the slightest sign of trouble. It’s easy to decide it’s not worth time and effort. However, the chapel itself stands for enduring love, even when love looks impossible.
Q: What would you say is the major thread or theme that runs throughout The Wedding Chapel?
This book takes a long look at the complications of family yet champions the power of enduring love. Tragedy such as war destroys lives, destroys dreams, but the zeal of the human heart helps people to carry on. The book also looks at how selfishness and greed are just as devastating as war, destroying the family and tearing down dreams. But with a little prayer, guidance and Divine intervention, we can find a way.
The book also confronts lies and misconceptions and calls for forgiveness. The story furthers the enduring power of love to bring wrong things right.
Q: Has a communication breakdown ever caused issues in one of your important relationships?
I’m sure it has! I can’t think of any because I try not to let communications or misunderstandings hinder my relationships. I’d rather humble up, apologize and make it right.
Q: Taylor and Jack marry impetuously, eloping only a few months after reconnecting, and they almost immediately start having issues. Why is the first year of marriage so hard? What advice can you offer to young married couples?
I don’t think the first year of marriage has to be hard (though it is for a lot of people because it’s the merging of two lives, two wills and wants). Marriage, as a God-breathed institution, calls for selflessness. And that’s just hard for most of us — the whole dying-to-self thing.
For couples who find themselves in conflict, I say breathe out, calm down. Sometimes situations seem large and impossible, but trust in the Lord to help you through. Get on your knees and pray! Go to a Godly couple for help. Learn to listen.
Don’t take everything so seriously. Love well. Listen to each other, but even more, “see” each other. It took me a while to “see” what my husband did to show his love for me. If I’d waited for him to show love the way I did or the way I expected, we’d have had a lot of conflict. I prayed a lot too. There’s no wisdom like God’s wisdom!
Q: How can we defeat negative patterns such as bad relationships or substance abuse, which sometimes seem to run in families?
I’ll be blunt here. Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit. There’s no program or pill that can do what He can do in our hearts.
In Him, we can break those family iniquities. We don’t have to carry forward the abuse or alcoholism or whatever our ancestors did.
But it takes leaning into Him, fighting the good fight. But it’s so worth it. “Old things have passed away,” Paul writes. “All things have become new.”
Romans 12:1-2 says it best. “Be transformed by renewing your mind.” We take those old thoughts and patterns captive and replace them with the truth of God’s word.
Here’s the definition of transform: to change in form, appearance or structure; metamorphose, to change in condition, nature or character; convert, to change into another substance; transmute.
We’re given the command because it’s possible. Dig in and don’t give up!
Q: How have you seen God at work even after you or someone in your life made a poor decision?
I usually come out the other side of a trial a bit more humbled. God loves humility, and the best response I’ve ever had to trial was to get on my knees and pray, to lean into Him. I’ve seen God redeem relationships, finances and hearts, even bring physical healing.
Q: Those who have a complicated relationship with their earthly fathers may struggle with a having healthy relationship with God as Father. How can they reconcile what they believe about God with what they’ve experienced with their earthly dads?
I’ve been mulling on this a lot lately. God is our Father. He’s holy, which means He’s “totally other than.” He’s like nothing or any one we’ve ever encountered or experienced. That’s exciting because God is also love (1 John 4).
For those hurt by their earthly fathers, my heart goes out to them. I think it’s probably the hardest thing to overcome. Abuse, neglect or rejection from fathers so molds a young heart. But God the Father is much greater. He extends His love to us even before we fully understand who He is. That’s the message of the Cross. Even Jesus, His begotten son, earned God’s pleasure and love without doing a thing!
Remember when Jesus went to John to be baptized? At that point, He’d not yet started His ministry. When He came up out of the Jordan, everyone heard a voice saying, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” Up to that point, Jesus had not entered His ministry. But He believed the Father — which pleased Him.
Same with Abraham — he was just living his life when God the Father called him out of Ur. Abraham’s only response was, “Yes.” Faith and belief.
God tells him, “I am your exceeding great reward.” Wow. The God of heaven and earth wants to be OUR great paycheck. There’s a powerful punch in that notion!
So for those who’ve had a troubled past with fathers or mothers, believe in the Father who says He loves you. He’ll move in and through your heart.
Q: Are there ever moments when we should give up on our dreams?
That’s a great question! I think we have to evaluate our dreams constantly to see if they are realistic and if we have the heart, the time, the talent and the drive to do them. Don’t ever give up dreaming, but do make sure your dreams match who you are.
Psalm 37 says God gives us the desires of our hearts; as we seek Him, He gives us dreams to dream! Joseph would’ve never imagined being a ruler in Egypt on his own. God put that dream in him then tested him until he was ready.
Q: You feature a villain in the book whose life has become rife with bitterness. Have you ever been tempted to give in to anger or jealousy? What do you hope your readers learn from this character?
I work in a competitive business. Jealousy is always knocking. I just try to never open the door to it. God’s love and blessings are great enough for all of us. His blessing of another author does not take away His blessing from me!
Never let your bitterness get the best of you. It only leads to pain and hurt, maybe even physical issues, and a distorted view of life. It’s not worth it.
I see so many public figures functioning out of their wounds and bitterness, and their life view is based on experience, not truth. And it creates a distorted view of others as well as themselves.
Get God’s perspective.
Q: In your book The Wedding Dress, you included some rich symbolism that showed how God impacts history and our lives in ways we don’t always see or understand. Did you incorporate any of that imagery in The Wedding Chapel?
Every book is different, but in the back of my mind I want to show, in a physical way, God touching the lives of the characters. I think He’s doing that for us every day. In the “real world,” we can’t always see God moving; that’s why our relationship with Him is a walk of faith, but He is working on our behalf daily. We just have to be willing to believe, to see with our heart.
With The Wedding Chapel, the heroine, Taylor, is aware that she once heard God, but after some choices she made, she no longer hears Him. She begins to long for those days again.
The chapel itself is a symbol of love, of one man’s devotion, which is a small reflection of Jesus’s love and devotion to us.
Like The Wedding Dress, there is a family thread, connecting generations. Two of the characters hear a sound whenever they are in the chapel. It creates quite a mystery for them. For me, that sound is God’s eye and attention on us. He wants good for us. He wants us to believe He is with us. It’s symbolic of God’s desire for us in the quiet, intimate place.
Q: When you sat down to write The Wedding Chapel, what impact did you hope it would have on its readers?
I always hope my stories leave readers uplifted, hopeful and aware of God’s love for them. In this book, I tried to show how His heart beats for us, even when we are running the opposite direction.
Just stop and listen!
Posted 12/14/15 at 11:37 AM | Audra Jennings
Many people live their lives thinking, “If I just had a bigger salary, I would be happier.” They live life with ongoing and often unexamined tension related to money, finding themselves unable to escape the credit-card trap or free themselves from the fear of not having enough for the future. CEO of Thrivent Financial Brad Hewitt and psychologist Dr. Jim Moline write in their book, Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money (Tyndale House Publishers/October 20, 2015/ISBN: 9781496407801/$15.99), the belief that simply having more will solve all money problems is completely false.
Through personal anecdotes, scripture and timely research, Hewitt and Moline reveal that financial peace has much more to do with one’s relationship with money rather than money itself. They invite readers to spend more time examining their fundamental attitudes toward the financial resources they have and aligning those views with their core values — and it all starts in the heart.
Hewitt explains that Your New Money Mindset is different from other books on the topic of finances because it encourages readers first to examine their motivations toward money. “Before you can remake your habits, you need to remake your heart. Financial guidance usually begins with advice about the mechanics of money management, such as debt repayment, retirement planning and college funding, without talking about the heart motivations. From virtually all the new behavior economics research, we know financial motivations have profound physiological and behavioral implications. Based upon how much money is talked about in scripture, we believe it has spiritual implications, too.”
Breaking away from the regular mold of financial books, Your New Money Mindset:
The ultimate goal for readers of Your New Money Mindset is to cultivate what Hewitt calls a surplus mindset, where they truly believe they have enough for themselves and enough to share. He adds, “We believe if people — especially Christians — could have a healthier relationship with money, it would change the world. People can be free from the slavery of a consumer culture, enabling them to live openheartedly with their time, energy and finances.”
Regardless of their current financial situation, all readers are invited to journey with Hewitt and Moline toward transforming their relationship with money by remaking their heart.
About the authors
Brad Hewitt is the CEO of Thrivent Financial, a not-for-profit Fortune 500 organization dedicated to helping Christians be wise with money and live generously. Before joining Thrivent, Hewitt served a variety of organizations in various financial roles. In 1993, he was named CFO of Diversified Pharmaceutical Services and later became its president and CEO. He went on to serve for five years as chief administrative officer of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod.
Hewitt also serves on the board of regents of Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as on the boards of Habitat for Humanity International and the American Council of Life Insurers. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin — River Falls — and has completed the Harvard Business School’s program for management development. Hewitt and his wife, Sue, have two adult children and live in Minnesota.
James Moline, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist who has built a 30-year career providing leadership and management consulting to global companies. Moline earned his Ph.D. from the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, and he also holds a Master of Arts in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Minnesota.
Posted 12/4/15 at 2:01 PM | Audra Jennings
Guest Article by Bob Smithouser
Hi, my name’s Bob, and I’m a terrible gift-wrapper.
Every Christmas, as we prepare to celebrate God’s perfectly wrapped gift to us, it’s been the same, sad story: My creases aren’t tight. There’s tape everywhere. And any present lacking natural 90-degree angles is guaranteed to have unsightly wrinkles and bulges. I’m a holiday hack. And it’s been 11 months since my last failed attempt at curling ribbon.
For years I tried to hide my incompetence by packing everything into shoeboxes first. That worked until the Christmas my young daughter peeled back cheerful reindeer paper to find her new stuffed animal crammed, face down in a Nike box. She thought it was dead because it couldn’t breathe. A little mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and everything was fine, but I needed a new way to conceal my severe gift-wrapping impairment. My response was the “Frankenpresent.”
This frugal accident from the mid-2000s remains a family tradition to this day. The idea arose because I hate wasting paper. It bothered me to throw away those little strips and squares barely big enough to cover an iTunes gift card. One year I gathered enough scraps from various sheets and rolls to wrap a DVD—a patchwork monstrosity that looked like it had lumbered out of a mad scientist’s laboratory. It was intentionally awful. The kids loved it! Now it’s a seasonal source of pride to be the one who receives Dad’s Frankenpresent.
Hooray for Digital Gifts
A more modern parenting challenge involves packaging “digital” Christmas gifts for our kids. Downloads. Online subscriptions. On the plus side, those of us with severe wrapsy (I’ve been told naming my illness is the first step toward conquering it) are thrilled anytime we can put away the paper and dispense with those tape dispensers. No crooked corners. No sloppy seams. No public ridicule.
Indeed a digital gift, such as a yearlong membership to Focus on the Family’s popular Odyssey Adventure Club, already saves me a trip to the mall. Just a few clicks on oaclub.org and my whole family is hooked up to over 800 audio dramas and enough fun activities to make my kids forget all about the Disney Channel. But because the process of ordering subscriptions like this is so easy, a lot rides on the presentation of such a gift. Once again, a little creativity is in order. The key elements are anticipation and surprise:
• Send children on a treasure hunt.
In lieu of tearing open a pitifully wrapped present, my kiddos enjoy the chance to follow a series of clues or riddles to their digital prize. Give it a try. Put the first clue in a greeting card. Let it direct the child to a mysterious slip of paper in the sugar bowl, in the microwave, or under their pillow. Anticipation builds as the string of clues continues. Six or seven should be plenty. Otherwise, cries of “Are we there yet?” will make Christmas morning feel like a road trip across New Mexico. But have fun. Make your clues rhyme. Use pictures. Be sure to put your computer or mobile device at the end of the trail, where the push of a button will bring their gift to life.
• Hide characters or logos in your tree.
When our daughter became old enough to have a Facebook page, we created a decoration out of the social network’s logo and hung it on our tree. Christmas morning we told her to search for a new ornament. Finding her name spelled out alongside that icon was like a rite of passage. Likewise, cutting out images of friendly Adventures in Odyssey characters (you can find them online) and hiding them in the tree is a great way for your children to discover that they are now part of a safe, spiritually rich, global community in the Odyssey Adventure Club.
Do you constantly find yourself cutting giftwrap too small, then trying to cover the bare spots with ribbons and bows? Join the club. Let’s face it, not everyone has what it takes to score points with a perfect wrapping job. But if those of us suffering from chronic wrapsywill creatively embrace our limitations and choose God-honoring gifts our kids love, it can be a very merry Christmas.
Bob Smithouser has served at Focus on the Family for nearly 25 years and spent the majority of that time pioneering and expanding the media review ministry of Plugged In — including 16 years as editor of its award-winning magazine and four as host of the popular podcast. A columnist, speaker, author and proud dad, Smithouser has also co-hosted the Official Adventures in Odyssey Podcast since 2006. His love for Odyssey and teaching children about Jesus led him to accept his current position, producer of the Odyssey Adventure Club.
Posted 12/3/15 at 4:14 PM | Audra Jennings
What’s on your children’s Christmas wish list? As excited as they might be about that new toy, as every parent knows, the thrill of the gift will eventually wear off. Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey have created the perfect gift for those who want to give their children or grandchildren a present that will provide year-round fun with eternal impact.
The Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC) offers families 24/7 access to 25 years’ worth of Adventures in Odyssey (AIO) episodes in a safe online environment where children can explore and learn.Christmas really is the perfect time to tap into your children’s imagination while infusing faith and fun into their day . . . and every day of the year.
To celebrate the holidays this year, the OAC is offering free content for everyone, including an Advent calendar, a broadcast download with tips to create a memorable Christmas, AIO cutouts and Christmas stocking stuffer cards.
Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:
In keeping with AIO’s rich heritage of teaching children about biblical principles — such as the importance of giving — a portion of each OAC membership benefits Focus on the Family partner organizations. Here are a couple of examples of what has been accomplished through Odyssey Adventure Club members:
The Odyssey Adventure Club wants to reach beyond fleeting entertainment this Christmas, partnering with parents in helping their kids grow deep in faith and find their place in God’s story.