Thursday, May 25, 2017

Engaging people’s hearts the way Jesus did

Part 1 of an interview with Randy Newman,
Author of Questioning Evangelism
  
When it comes to evangelism, do you feel pressured to know all the answers? What if you didn’t have to worry about having all the right answers but instead knew the right questions to ask in return? In Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did (Second Edition) (Kregel Publications), author Randy Newman asks readers to look at evangelism in a different way. After all, Jesus asked questions; why don’t we?

Q: Why is it better to ask questions than to give answers when it comes to evangelism? What are some of the first questions you use to get a conversation started?

What does a question do that an answer doesn’t? (Yes, I know. I just answered your question with a question on purpose.) Doesn’t a question make you think and participate in the answering process? Doesn’t a question sometimes expose hidden or less-than-sincere motives? Don’t questions take away some of the anger?

The easiest first questions are ones that clarify. “What do you mean by . . . ?,” “Are you saying . . . ?,” or  “Why, of all the possible questions you could ask, do you ask that question?” Of course, sooner or later, you have to do more than just ask questions. At some point, the questioning gets annoying, but some carefully chosen questions can pave the way for more productive conversations than just announcing an answer.

Q: Tell us about how you came to start using this method in your own outreach.

It was born out of frustration. Just answering questions wasn’t working. I needed to try engaging with people instead of just preaching at them. I saw enough success to keep going, develop the technique and experiment with new questions. It also prompted me to study how Jesus used questions and answered questions with questions. If He used this technique, I figured it was a better model than the ones we often look to for insights about evangelism. The most common approach I had seen was taken more from the business world than the Bible. We approached evangelism the way sales people approached their trade. The gospel is not a product, and evangelism is not a sales pitch.

Q: Many times we get frustrated when someone answers a question with a question. How can we use the questioning method in a way that doesn’t turn off the person we are talking to?

A lot of it has to start from within. We need genuine concern for people, not just insight in how to win arguments. Praying and asking God to give us love for people is essential. It’s not automatic or something we can well up from within us. We need wisdom from God about how to engage with people as whole persons — intellectually, emotionally and socially.  

Q: How should a reader approach and use Questioning Evangelism?

Ideally I would hope people would read it in a small group and discuss it chapter by chapter. In particular, I think it would be most helpful if people could discuss how they could formulate questions to try out on non-Christians they know. In fact, I hope readers will discuss it over the course of a few months while trying out some of the approaches from the book in real-life conversations between meetings. As people share successes, failures and frustrations, they can brainstorm ways to improve and pray for God to bless their efforts.

Q: What are the most difficult questions Christians need to be able to answer or at least have a response to? How can they prepare to respond to those questions?

The three biggest questions, in my opinion, are the ones about exclusivity (Why do you think Jesus is the only way?), suffering (How can you believe in a God who allows so much evil in the world?) and sexuality (Why are Christians stuck in the 18th century?). Without repeating everything I wrote in the book, I think the single best approach to preparing is to become fluent with such phrases as, “I don’t have a simple answer to your question, but I would like to discuss it. Would you?”

Q: The first edition of Questioning Evangelism has been a perennial best-seller since its release more than a decade ago. What has been updated in this second edition?

The biggest change had to be made because of how our culture has moved strongly in favor of homosexuality. Fourteen years ago I wrote a chapter on how we witness to homosexuals, and some people may have thought that was odd. Back then, few people brought up the issue of homosexuality in the context of an evangelistic conversation. Today, however, people raise the question often, and it’s absolutely essential to address it. I updated the chapter extensively and suggested some helpful resources developed in the past few years.


Learn more about Questioning Evangelism at www.connectionpoints.us. Randy Newman is also on Twitter (@RandyDNewman).  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The strength and fragility of hope

Part 2 of an interview with Cynthia Ruchti,
Author of A Fragile Hope
  
We easily become so absorbed in our own responsibilities, problems and concerns that we miss what is going on in the lives of those around us, even those we love the most. That’s where Josiah Chamberlain finds himself in award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti’s latest release, A Fragile Hope (Abingdon Press). When his life starts falling apart around him, will the fragile hope he has left be enough to help through the most difficult time of his life?

Q: In a few sentences, tell us about your new book, A Fragile Hope.

Much-in-demand marriage and family expert Josiah Chamberlain finishes the final chapter of his latest book — destined to be another best-seller, he’s sure — to discover his wife has left him. Everything he assumed about their relationship disintegrates. His wife, Karin, can’t tell him why she left. It will cost him everything to keep loving with nothing but a fragile hope his career, his sanity, his faith and their marriage can survive.

Q: What lessons in love are revealed to readers in A Fragile Hope?

Even though the lessons within the novel A Fragile Hope are tucked quietly between the covers, I hope readers find them unmistakable. 
  • The strength and fragility of love. Both are true. A couple I know has made writing and speaking on the subject of love their life’s work. Not long ago, the husband was in an accident that could have snuffed out his life. Their love is strong and practiced, but it could have ended that night. On hearing of the accident, before she knew the extent of his injuries, the wife whispered a gratitude prayer that it had become habit for them to say “I love you” every time they said goodbye, whether for an hour or a week. Love would have been their last words to each other if he hadn’t survived the accident. No wonder their relationship is so strong. Everything they do is bookended with love.
  • The need for constant nurturing in relationships. It’s easy to fall into routine in marriage, to assume if it has survived the first few years, the rest is coasting. However, the opposite is true. Coasting in marriage is as dangerous as coasting in our faith. If we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backward.  
  • The power and gift of communication. Not all communication in marriage is verbal, but not all talking is communicating either. Communication is the act of exchanging gifts of listening and responding. Just as prayer is an interconnection WITH God, not words spoken TO God, so communication in marriage is an interchange with the goal of understanding, not winning.
  • Against our natural inclination and instincts, at its heart, love is sacrifice. Jesus demonstrated this truth poignantly, showing His love by sacrificing His life for us. The best marriages are those where personal agendas bow to the need of the other, but in such a grace-filled way the one bowing feels blessed. Not at all what we see disguised as love in most movies or television dramas.

Q: Is it possible to get past the devastation of betrayal completely? What words of encouragement can you offer readers who may be struggling with past hurts?

God tells us He “remembers our sins no more” in Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 12:8. He is the only One who can forgive AND forget perfectly. The rest of us are invited to tap into His strength to forgive those who wrong us or betray us. However our human minds find it more challenging to forget. Choosing to love in spite of our hurt slowly rebuilds what shattered when trust was broken. Personally I also believe that leaning into God — the perfect Forgiver, the Author of forgiveness — is the only way we can move beyond disappointment or betrayal to see love restored again.

Q: How long ago did you first start work on A Fragile Hope? Is there a reason why this story was such a long work in progress?

This story lived in a tender spot under my heart for more than eight years. Seven other novels and novellas were written before I was given the opportunity to revisit A Fragile Hope. My thoughts would return to the story often, but the pieces were scattered. Some were missing. Then, as I began to work on it again after years away from it, I discovered the lost pieces sliding into place to rework the story as it stands today. I might never know why it was important for the story to wait until now. Maybe something needed to grow within me. Maybe the reader who most needs the book wouldn’t have reached for it until now.

Q: What scripture passage played a part in the inspiration of this book?

This won’t seem like the typical scripture to inspire a contemporary novel, but readers will find deep in the story why this snippet of a familiar verse played such a key role. In many churches, as communion is served, we hear I Corinthians 11:23-24, “The Lord Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is (represents) My body, which is [offered as a sacrifice] for you,’” (Amplified Bible).

I was deeply moved by the idea that Jesus showed us the depth of His love most significantly “on the night He was betrayed.” What would that look like in a husband/wife relationship — or any other relationship, for that matter? Can love shine brightest on the night it’s betrayed? That’s what love does: gives of itself when it makes the least sense.

Q: Normally something that happened in your own life also ignites a spark in the writing process. What personal experience did you draw from for A Fragile Hope?

I visited my mom at her small apartment often. We knew that before long, her congestive heart failure and other life-threatening issues would send her to a hospice residence facility. One afternoon shortly before that became necessary, her pastor came to the apartment to serve her communion. As he read that passage from I Corinthians, he got no farther than the word “betrayed” before I was in tears. The weight and depth and magnitude of the kind of love Jesus shows us bore down on me like a weighted blanket, smothering me with wonder in that tender, holy moment. It changes everything when we fully appreciate — or try to appreciate— the reality that love is at its most glorious when it sacrifices.


To keep up with Cynthia Ruchti, visit www.cynthiaruchti.com. You can also follow her on Facebook (Cynthia Ruchti), Twitter (@cynthiaruchti) and Pinterest (cynthiaruchti). 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

David Winters' Driver Confessional

Seat belts are recommended if you’re going to open David Winters’ new book, Driver Confessional. Join Antonio, a ride-share driver who winds through the streets of Washington, D.C. in search of his next fare to support his young family and pay law school expenses. His easy manner and Italian good looks lead passengers to disclose a bit more than they intended. On her way to a midnight meeting in a Senate office building, a mysterious woman and her confession plunge Antonio and his police detective brother into international espionage, the Russian mob and corporate excess. Clues add up to danger and car chases pile up on ethical dilemmas.

{MORE ABOUT DRIVER CONFESSIONAL}


Driver Confessional (May 2017)
Ride share driver Antonio cruises the streets of Washington, D.C. looking for his next fare.
He has an unusual gift for relaxing his customers and stimulating their desire to reveal more than they planned. By the completion of their ride, many feel so comfortable that they confess their sins great and small. Antonio’s faith guides his discussions and points him in new directions. Suddenly, his peaceful world is turned upside down by a mysterious business woman. As she heads to a midnight rendezvous, she confesses more than Antonio can handle. Her story sends him into a world of espionage, international terrorism and danger.

David Winters

{MORE ABOUT DAVID WINTERS}


David L Winters is an award-winning author, humorist and speaker, originally from Ohio, who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. His first book, Sabbatical of the Mind: The Journey from Anxiety to Peace, won several awards including a Silver Illumination Award from the Jenkins Group and two Finalist Medals from the Next Generation Indies Book Awards.
Find out more about David at http://www.sabbaticalofthemind.net.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Here I am blogging about The Bachelorette again. #thebachelorette

Photo from ABC.com

I said at the end of last season's The Bachelor that I probably was not going to blog this season of The Bachelorette. After some down time, I decided I was especially in a blogging rut, so here we go.

This time around, the woman in search of love is Rachel Lindsey, the 31-year-old attorney from Dallas. The first non-white lead contestant which is what many critics said needed to happen long ago. There's a definite racial variety in the men this time around.

Rachel thought she had something going on with Nick, but went home after hometowns last season. I don't know why anyone was interested in Nick. But, we finally get to move past Nick.

Rachel met four of the men at the end of "The Women Tell All." Gotta be honest. I forgot about that and didn't include anything about it on my post about that episode.

On Good Morning America, she talked about telling producers she wanted to be entertained, so the parade of men coming out of the limos like a clown car is sure to be a circus.

Before the limos come, we have to do some special videos introducing some of the guys. I'll mix that info in down below when we get to the limos. (Marked with *.) I will never be able to keep track of all 31, by the way.

I'll just skip the whole segment where the other women from Nick's season (aka some of Rachel's closet friends) show up to encourage her and give advice. I was hoping to never see Corinne again, but... Some of the women talk about which of the four from "The Women Tell All" night that I don't remember. Someone knows someone who knew one of the guys, and he might not be there for the right reasons. Yawn. Already?

When Rachel arrives at the mansion, Chris Harrison asks if she really thinks she'll be able to find her husband since she was so skeptical. Cue first limo.

Peter - business owner - 30 - Madison, WI - I hate his blue plaid jacket. He also has a bow tie. I hate bow ties. It's cheezy. Wisconsin. Cheese.

*Josiah - prosecuting attorney - 28 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL - Family is big to him. He lost his brother to suicide after being bullied for being overweight. When Josiah was 7, he cut his brother down from the tree where he hung himself. He got into trouble as a teenager, and decided to work toward being like the lawyer that helped him to turn his life around. He has a tux with a bow tie. He says by the end, she "will have no reasonable doubt." I think she groans more than laughs at the law pun.

Bryan - chiropractor - 37 - Miami, FL - He speaks to her in Spanish. She gets that he said she looked spectacular. He's Columbian.

*Kenny - professional wrestler - 35 - Las Vegas, NV - I dislike him already. He's dramatic and sure to be cocky. He does have a daughter he wants a mom for. He makes a better first impression than I figured. He had a little dance move that stuck a chord.

Rob - law student - 29 - Houston, TX - It's the season of law, evidently. He's a nerdy white guy.

Iggy - Consulting Firm CEO - 30 - Chicago, IL - He's either Hawaiian or from a Polynesian Island. I bet he surfs. He wears sneakers with his tux. I could be so unfairly stereotyping him though.

Bryce - Firefighter - 30 - Orlando, FL - He comes in dress uniform and literally picks Rachel up off her feet.

Will - Sales manager - 28 - Miami, FL - He does his best Steve Urkel impression, gets back in the limo and comes back out "normal." I hated Steve Urkel back in the day, and I am not any more fond of the whole routine now.

*Diggy - senior inventory analyst - 31 - Chicago, IL - Diggy has 575 pair of sneakers and is obsessed with fashion. Diggy also talks about himself in the 3rd person.

Kyle - marketing consultant - 26 - Los Angeles, CA - He wants to show her his buns - his Jamaican buns.

Blake K. - US Marine Veteran - 29 - San Francisco, CA - Representing the Asians and pointing out his grandparents only only knew each other a couple of months before marrying. They have now been married 65 years

Brady - male model (they had to denote the male part?) - 29 - Miami, FL - He brings a block of ice and giant hammer so he can break the ice.

Dean - startup recruiter - 25 - Venice, CA - One of the men who already met Rachel. That night he made a crack about wanting to go black and never going back. He's nervous tonight to see how she reacts. He was nervous about the line, and asked what she thought. She says she thought it was cute.

Eric - personal trainer - 29 - Los Angeles, CA - Dancing is his jam. He's kind of awkward.

DeMario - executive recruiter - 30 - Century City, CA - This is another guy she already met. She did remember him. On WTA, he had tickets and a ring to fly to Vegas.

*Blake - Personal trainer and aspiring drummer - 31 - Marina Del Rey, CA - He talks about being testosterone driven and how his last relationship was sex-driven. Can't stand him either. He arrives with a marching band. Now I get why the aspiring drummer part was his caption earlier. It didn't make sense out of context at the time. He met her on the live show, and she did remember. Last time was evidently a boring and awkward intro. (Peter was impressed with the entrance and thinks he should have stepped up his game.

Fred - executive assistant - 27 - Dallas, TX - He brings a yearbook of when he was in third grade. Rachel was in 8th grade. He hasn't seen her in 15 years. She knew who he was as soon as he stepped out of the limo. She remembers him being a very bad kid.

Jonathan - tickle monster (no real job?) - 31 - New Smyrna Beach, FL - He is a weirdo. Something about his eyes. He wants to try to make her laugh, so asks her to hold out her hand, close her eyes, then he reaches in to tickle her. She dies laughing because she is so ticklish. Talk about awkward though. You can't just do that the first time you meet someone. He tickles some of the guys too. #uberawkard

Lee - singer/songwriter - 30 - Nashville, TN - He brings his guitar (and he isn't good) and makes up a stupid song I didn't understand.

*Alex - information systems supervisor - 28 - Detroit, MI - He's a gym rat who claims to be a nerd. I'm not sure what language his parents were speaking in the clip. Greek? He has a vacuum and claims to be part of the clean-up crew. I don't get it.

Milton - hotel recreation supervisor - 31 - North Bay Village, FL - He takes a selfie.

Adam - real estate agent - 26 - Dallas, TX - Brings his dummy, Adam, Jr. with him. It's odd. He doesn't have a moveable mouth, so it's not like he's going to try to be a ventriloquist.

Matt - construction sales rep - 32 - Merick, CT - He arrives dressed as a penguin. He heard she had a thing for penguins, and penguins mate for life. He waddles into the mansion.

Grant - ER doctor - 29 - New York, NY - Arrives in an ambulance.

Anthony - education software manager - 26 - Chicago, IL - He's soft spoken. These men are coming in quick, so there's not much to say.

Jamey - sales account executive - 32 - Santa Monica, CA - There's nothing to say about him.

*Jack Stone - attorney - 31 - Dallas, TX - He's an only child who was a momma's boy until his mom died in high school. Now, he wants to have a big family. I have no idea why we get his last name with the limo arrivals.

*Mohit - product manager - 26 - San Francisco, CA - His greatest accomplishment is launching his start-up. He is big into Bollywood dancing, even competing.

Jedidiah - another ER doc - 35 - Augusta, GA - They talk about his name being Biblical.

Michael - former pro basketball player - 26 - Chicago, IL - He seems short to have played basketball.

*Lucas - Whaboom - 30 - Woodside, CA - He has his own catch phrase, "Whaboom!" which much mean "loser." He needs to go already. Much like "twin," Whaboom is his job description. He has a t-shirt with it on there. I can't even explain how he makes an annoying fool of himself when he does his thing. From the limo, he has a megaphone announcing himself, including TMI about one of his man parts being bigger than the other. The men had been talking about how most guys had seemed normal up until now. This is what they have been waiting for.

That was definitely not saving the best for last. I'd say the opposite. 

As soon as Rachel comes in and does her toast, the first guy to ask for time is Josiah. The rest of the men are kicking themselves. Josiah tells his story. She loves full circle stories, and she says it's a beautiful one. The guys figure they are comparing "best case" lawyer stories.

Dean, who looks kind of plastic, moved to LA to be near the beach, so they play in a sandbox to build a sand castle.

There's lots of jumping around from snippet to snippet of conversation. Adam Jr. is hanging out on a couch with a glass of champagne. The men think he is creepy. Rachel is a little creeped out and tells Adam so.

The penguin wants to have a Michael Jackson vs. Prince debate. Rachel says, MJ, but penguin is on Prince's side.

Rachel has some time with Fred. She was his camp counselor when he was a horrible kid. She finds him attractive now, but she can't get over remembering him getting into trouble.

I find Bryan creepy. He's a chiropractor who is good with his hands. She was drawn to him when he got out of the limo. He likes her speaking Spanish to her. He sneaks in of the first kiss, and it was not just a pick. She enjoyed it even though she had planned to not kiss anyone that night.

Cue first impression rose delivery by Chris Harrison...

By the way, let me insert here that this is the most maddening night to blog. I have had to pause so many times to get everyone's info that I'm running behind.

Back to the men bickering and name calling. Who is compensating?

DeMario asks, "NSync or Back Street Boys?" They agree on NSync. She was impressed with his confidence on WTA.

The men start becoming obnoxious breaking in for time. They come in droves. They start to form a line. They start cutting in line.

The drunk of the night is evidently Mohit. Maybe it's Wahoo, I mean Whaboom. The doctors want to call a psych consult for him.

Random fact... Rachel doesn't like chocolate. Peter tries to bond over Wisconsin though. I don't know what tie she has to Wisconsin other than she dated Nick who was from Wisconsin (wasn't he?).

Whaboom gets his time. He takes off his jacket, and we learn the t-shirt is sleeveless. She might actually be entertained even though the rest of the guys hate him.

One guy's thing is to purr in her ear.

Rachel learns of Kenny's wrestling name and his daughter.

It's time for Rachel to give the first impression rose. She received it on her season and hopes it means as much to the man she gives it to as it did to her. She pulls Bryan out. "I don't know if it was how you told me I was going to be in trouble. I don't know if it was you speaking in Spanish... or the kiss..." He goes in for another kiss after he gets the rose. I don't see what was so intriguing about him myself, but to each their own. 

Mohit witnesses the kiss and screams, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" After he picks up his jaw from off the ground, that is.

Everyone gathers so that Chris Harrison can clink his glass. It's time for Rachel to prepare for the rose ceremony. 

So, we all know the producers will have her keep the ones that annoyed us. She has to have a cheat sheet somewhere since there are 31 and there's no way she remembers all the names. Here we go.

  1. Bryan already got the first impression rose.
  2. Peter
  3. Will, will you accept this rose?
  4. Jack
  5. Jamey
  6. Iggy
  7. Eric
  8. DeMario
  9. Jonathan (The Tickle Monster weirdo)
  10. Bryce
  11. Alex
  12. Kenny (I think he will go far after watching him more - watching him as the first video, I wasn't so sure.)
  13. Dean
  14. Matt (the penguin)
  15. Anthony
  16. Brady
  17. Josiah
  18. Lee
  19. Diggy
  20. Fred (even though he thought history was going to get the better of him)
  21. Adam (he was told to leave Adam Jr. behind)
  22. Blake E. (he seems possessive - he will go quickly)
  23. Lucas (who Whabooms his way to Rachel)
No one can understand the final choice. It was obviously a producer choice.

In the light of day, going home...
  1. Kyle
  2. Mohit (who will never get to Bollywood dance for us)
  3. Rob (gotta cull some attorneys)
  4. Blake K. (the former Marine)
  5. Milton (he didn't get to show all his outfits he brought)
  6. Michael (maybe she didn't want to do former pro athlete - I thought he would stick around a while)
  7. Grant (chiropractors over ER doctors, all the way it seems)
  8. Jedidiah (the other ER doctor)
With that, we see some highlights of the season. 

Lots of travel, lots of face sucking, lots of drama. Then, there's the tears. Questions about "the right reasons." Lee is going to be the country boy fight picker. Someone has a girlfriend. Some bleeding. 

Here's a spoiler. On GMA this morning, Rachel said she was allowed to say she was engaged and she's extremely happy. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

This Little Light of Mine

Here's a little throwback...



This Little Light of Mine

This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, this little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine

All around the neighborhood
I’m going to let it shine
All around the neighborhood
I’m going to let it shine
All around the neighborhood
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m going to let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m going to let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Don’t let Satan [blow] it out!
I’m going to let it shine
Don’t let Satan [blow] it out!
I’m going to let it shine
Don’t let Satan [blow] it out!
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pardon my whining

I'm ready for another vacation.

I don't have to go anywhere and do something like I usually want to do, I just need complete and utter down time.

I did myself a huge disservice when I took my vacation back in March. I was more plugged in that I may have had to be, but I couldn't totally disconnect during my time "off." I knew I couldn't get too far behind because I had way too many books launching the next week at work.

I've been chasing my tail ever since. Insane to-do list. Exhausting two months. I even gave up taking Good Friday off to take another holiday or day at another time. I will be taking it soon because I feel defeated. And cranky. And tired. I hope I'm not coming off too much that way though. Especially when I get emails on Sunday about an interview that night. Sigh.

I am terrible about unwinding.

There's no rest for the weary! On June 3-4, we are setting up at a two-day, 7 AM (set-up) to 8 PM (or so) baseball tournament to sell crafts. I will NOT be doing my up-until-the-wee-hours-working-on- projects stretch in the week leading up to it this time though. No need for that this time!

Now as my mind goes in circles, I really need to work on my VBS lesson for the second week of June.

My mind is spinning so much, I'm dizzy!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Author Mike H. Mizrahi joins forces with iCan Shine

Proceeds from new book will help organization
hold bicycle camps for children with disabilities

Learning to ride a bicycle for the first time is a momentous occasion for anyone, but it can be life-changing for children and young adults with disabilities. Author Mike H. Mizrahi, who recently released his debut novel, The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race (Redemption Press), has partnered with nonprofit organization iCan Shine to help teach children with disabilities to learn to ride a bike. Mizrahi will donate 50% of the proceeds from the sale of each book to iCan Shine, Inc.

iCan Shine is an international 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization that teaches children, teens and young adults with disabilities to ride a conventional two-wheel bicycle. The nonprofit conducts more than 100 five-day iCan Bike programs in 35 US states and four provinces in Canada, serving approximately 3,000 people with disabilities each year. 

Mizrahi hopes to provide those with disabilities the chance to discover they’re a natural on the “wheel,” much like The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race’s 19-year-old Anna Gaines, who is disabled and discovers her love of bicycling after a visit to Brooklyn. Upon returning home, she becomes the first woman to ride the streets of Chattanooga, clad in bloomers, a risqué move at the turn of the 20th century.

“Imagine the smiles on the faces of kids and young adults with disabilities as they experience a newfound freedom on the seat of a two-wheeler,” Mizrahi says. "I’m thrilled to dedicate my new novel to [iCan Shine’s] continuation. The young, female character in my story, set in 1895, finds this same independence on the seat of a bicycle. The tie-in is perfect.”

“Learning to ride a two-wheeler is a rite of passage for most children, but not a guarantee for children with disabilities,” says Lisa Ruby, founder and executive director of iCan Shine, Inc. “Learning to ride increases self-confidence and independence. Biking brings a new family recreational activity as well as potential independent transportation for people with disabilities. Mike Mizrahi’s character Anna is a beautiful testimony to the courage, perseverance and accomplishment of all riders with a disability.” 

Learn more about and purchase a copy of The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race at www.mikehmizrahi.com. You can also find Mike on Facebook (AuthorMikeMizrahi) and Twitter (@MikeHMiz). Learn more about iCan Shine at www.iCanShine.org.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hearts anchored in God don’t sink

Part 2 of an interview with Tracie Miles,
Author of Unsinkable Faith:
God-Filled Strategies to Transform
the Way You Think, Feel, and Live


Some days you’re floating through life and everything seems fine. Other days, you’re barely holding on in the midst of a storm and negative thoughts threaten to sink your attitude, steal your peace, and rob you of joy. But just because life is hard doesn’t mean your heart and mind have to become hardened.

Tracie Miles knows it’s possible to overcome a pessimistic mindset and rise above your circumstances to find the positive—by changing the way you think, feel, and live. In Unsinkable Faith, her stories and insights will help point readers to God’s truths so they can rise back to the surface.

Q: How is choosing joy, no matter what, different from a “Fake it ‘til you make it” mindset?

There are days when we are just not going to feel happy. Nobody can be happy every second of every day; it’s just not realistic. I do believe, however, you can choose joy every day. It will take some effort, but it is possible. We can’t just pretend our problems don’t exist or deny our feelings when we’re hurt or upset, essentially putting on a fake smile. But when we ask God to help us purposely focus on having a glass-half-full mentality, we start feeling more uplifted. It’s truly amazing what can happen when we invite God to change our hearts and minds and, in turn, our lives. Happiness and joy truly are a choice. We don’t have to live a joyless life unless we choose to do so. Circumstances don’t determine our joy; our faith and outlook do.

Q: Through what process does what we think become who we are?

Scripture talks about this. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” This simply means whatever we think about internally will have an impact on who we are, who we become and how we live our lives. Our internal thoughts drive everything we say and usually dictate our outward actions.  What we think about becomes who we are.

I think many of us are under the impression it doesn’t matter what we think because nobody can hear those thoughts unless we say them aloud. However, our thoughts are literally what control our lives. Choosing to be the captain of our thoughts and transforming our minds to be generally optimistic becomes the determining factor not only on what kind of person we are, but how other people see us.

Q: While our thoughts dictate our feelings, which in turn dictate our actions, how do we cross over and begin living by faith rather than feelings?

The transformation must begin with prayer and surrendering ourselves to God. Of course, using the God-tools we talked about earlier will equip us for the journey. Living by faith instead of feelings is difficult, so that’s why it’s important to make our faith a priority.

Q: How do our thinking patterns actually change the physical function and structure of our

brains?

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in communication pathology, wrote a popular book titled Switch On Your Brain. In it she reveals that because we are constantly reacting to circumstances and events, our brains become shaped by the process of thoughts and reactions. If we think positively, the physiological aspects of our brains change in healthy ways that help us move toward a positive quality of life. Yet if we think negatively, our brains are changed in unhealthy ways, causing us to feel and act negatively and steering us toward a more negative quality of life.

Leaf also found people who regularly meditate on Scripture and have developed a disciplined and focused thought-life have increased intelligence, wisdom and a feeling of peace. I love how this research supports what we are told in Scripture repeatedly: We can transform and renew our minds if we choose to (Romans 12:2). For all who struggle with negativity, pessimism and even depression, this is good news! Although in many cases there are physiological reasons for depression (and therefore medication is beneficial and necessary), sometimes depression can be minimized when positive thinking becomes the norm instead of the exception.

Q: What are some of the “God-tools” available to help us fight for control of our thoughts and emotions?

Second Corinthians 10:4 (The Message) says, “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” These God-tools are within our grasp to fight the spiritual war taking place in our minds. These tools are God’s Word, prayer, the prayers of others on our behalf, holy strength we can tap into, the ability to persevere, peace even when life isn’t peaceful and worship. All of these things equip us to push back against warped philosophies and the lies in our minds that do not line up with God’s Word.

Satan’s tactics don’t stand a chance against God’s power, but until we intentionally decide to use those tools to fight for control over our own thoughts and emotions, he will continue to have the upper hand in this battlefield of the mind.

Q: A strong theme throughout Unsinkable Faith is surrendering our fears and negative thoughts to the Lord. Is this something we can just do once, or is it an ongoing process?

If only it were that easy! In every difficult circumstance I face, I usually catch myself thinking something negative again. That’s simply human nature and the power of emotion. However, as God walked me through the journey of mind transformation, especially in the writing this book, I began to form a habit of noticing negative thoughts when they occurred and immediately trying to reject those thoughts, replacing them with something positive and more true.

For the whole year after my separation, I had to go back to God time and time again to ask for His help in controlling my thoughts.  I would do good for a while, but then another problem or emotional situation would rage in, and my thoughts would plummet into negativity yet again. Thankfully, God is gracious to forgive us when we stumble, and He knows we are just human beings trying to survive in this badly broken world where it’s often challenging to think positively. The transforming of our minds is a process where we’ll never fully “arrive,” but when we commit to change and practice changing how we think day in and day out, we soon notice our lives are changing for the better. We become happier and more at peace than ever before. It’s a journey, but every step of the journey is worth it.

Q: You offer practical ideas at the end of each chapter, including journaling topics, actions steps and Bible verses for meditation. How vital are these steps to making lasting changes in how we think?

We can read infinite amounts of information about how to do new things or learn to improve on something, but if we don’t apply those tips to our lives and put them into practice, we’ll never achieve success. Just like anything new we set out to learn or master, we have to apply what we learn to everyday life practically. That’s why I included many practical tips, opportunities for personal reflections and ways to apply the book to their own life, complete with biblical backup. Each chapter also includes a powerful challenge to the readers to help them really jumpstart their new lives.

Q: What other resources are available to go along with Unsinkable Faith?

I have a wonderful study guide that accompanies the book and includes all of the challenges, reflections and chapter activities from the book, but also includes bonus challenges so readers can take their quest for optimism even further. The guide offers more room for writing and journaling thoughts and prayers. There’s a really fun activity for each chapter with background information about the famous people who wrote the quotes used in the book. They were all wonderful role models for positive thinkers who overcame adversity and allowed God to transform their minds and their lives. These bonus activities help the reader delve deep into their own thought patterns and feel encouraged that they too can change.

I also have a free 5 Day Optimist Challenge readers can sign up for on my blog, www.traciemiles.com. The challenge will get them started on the right foot in their own personal journeys toward living lives of optimism. There are lots of other resources available on my blog as well.


Learn more about Tracie Miles and Unsinkable Faith at www.traciemiles.com,on Facebook (p31traciemiles) and via Twitter (@traciewmiles).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Deron Spoo's The Good Book

Whether you already love and read the Bible regularly or are just beginning your Christian journey, The Good Book by Deron Spoo is a must-have resource. The Good Book offers a user-friendly guide to the Bible’s biggest ideas. A chapter from the Bible accompanies each chapter of the book, which helps readers understand the context and content of the Scripture passages in a way that can open the whole Bible. It’s designed as a forty-day journey through forty key chapters of the Bible.

{MORE ABOUT THE GOOD BOOK}

The Good Book: 40 Chapters That Reveal the Bible’s Biggest Ideas (David C. Cook, April 2017)
The Good Book offers a user-friendly guide to the Bible’s biggest ideas.
A chapter from the Bible accompanies each chapter of the book, which helps readers understand the context and content of the Scripture passages in a way that can open the whole Bible.
Designed as a forty-day journey through forty key chapters of the Bible, The Good Book will appeal to those who already love and read the Bible regularly as well as to those who are just beginning their Christian journey.
The Good Book:
—is a great evangelism tool for explaining the major themes of Scripture to those who want to know more about God, Jesus, and the core beliefs of Christianity;
—gives new believers an overview of the Bible and lays a framework to help them understand Scripture passages;
—helps longtime Christians rediscover the basic themes of Scripture and experience these truths in a new way; and
—encourages Scriptural literacy as it pushes readers to read both one chapter of the book and one chapter of the Bible each day for forty days.
The Good Book is great for individuals, and it can also be used by small groups in an eight-week church-wide program or a forty-week journey that focuses on one Bible chapter each week. The Good Book will help people understand and live by the transformative truths of the Bible.
Deron Spoo

{MORE ABOUT DERON SPOO}


Deron Spoo is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the past 16 years, Spoo has guided the church as it transitions from being simply a downtown church to a regional church committed to urban ministry. Church members describe him as “down to earth” and “authentic.” His television devotionals, “First Things First,” reach 100,000 people each week. Spoo is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Paula, have three children.
Find out more about Deron at www.readthegoodbook.com.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What were you born to do?

Part 2 of an interview with Lisa Lloyd
Author of Chasing Famous

 
What were you born to do? Who were you created to be? What’s the yearning deep within your soul?

What if you could live into that very purpose? This kind of living requires us to see ourselves as instruments designed to be used for the glory of God. But most of us don’t see ourselves this way. Instead, we resign ourselves to be spectators in the audience, still waiting for our names to be called—to be cast in that next big role. Of course, we all hope to be selected. However, sometimes in our desire to be chosen, we turn our focus to others—hoping they will select us. We end up auditioning for life, always striving to make the cut and gain approval. And in our desire to be chosen, we forget that God’s already cast us in a unique role that only we can play.

Written by a professional actress Lisa Lloyd, who spent years chasing after her own fame, Chasing Famous (New Hope Publishers), empowers us to be brave and step into the role God has for us—no longer seeking after our own fame, but joyfully making God’s name famous—knowing we have been selected to stand center stage and proclaim His renown to all who will listen. 

Q: Why do you think we often trade the applause of the One who’s given us everything for the applause of those who simply want something from us?

It’s because we’re insecure—or at least for me. I want a tangible, audible “atta-girl!” If I put too much hype on the affirmation of others and their applause, or lack thereof, it dictates how I feel about myself. At its core, I’m an idolater. My security must come from the fact God loves me, messiness and all. When I get the spotlight off myself and my shortcomings and onto God and His enough-ness, then He can use me to make His name great. It’s in the nothingness of me that He makes much of Himself.

Q: How does making glorifying God our main objective change the way we approach our daily lives?

It takes the pressure off, first of all. If the point of my day is to glorify God, then that is where my happiness and joy will lie. It doesn’t lie in me doing things or putting myself in a position to be happy. My joy comes from paying attention to where He is and joining Him there. I need to be sensitive to His Spirit and die to me when it comes to my friendships, my attitude, my husband, my kids, my calendar, my objectives. When I live this way, the Spirit within me is greatly delighted, and therefore I am too. I may not get my checklist taken care of that day, but when I’m living my day asking God what I can do to make Him famous, my checklist becomes secondary while my God-focus becomes primary.

Q: You write about the great freedom to be found in sharing our past struggles and being authentic about what God has rescued us from. How does being vulnerable about our past failures free us to shift the spotlight more effectively to God? Is there ever a time not to share or not to reveal every detail?

When we take the brave step to share our past failures with others, we loosen Satan’s grip on us, and God uses us to set others free. As I mentioned earlier, vulnerability breeds vulnerability. When I share my story and challenge others to share theirs, they tell me it’s like they were given oxygen for the first time in years.

I shared my story at a women’s conference recently. A few hours later, a woman told me that after she heard me speak, she shared her abortion story with her Bible study group at the conference with her. She’d never told anyone before, not even her husband. Then another member of the same group shared she too had an abortion. This group rallied around both women and later helped them find post-abortion counseling. Their initial fear of being shunned was a lie. Instead, the group loved and linked arms with them. God drew nearer, not further away. The enemy was pushed back as these women shifted the spotlight of their lives onto God. 

I share my story whenever a group I’m in is discussing the grace of Jesus. I share one-on-one when I sense that the person I’m talking with might find freedom if he or she were to hear my story. I once was a part of a peaceful, silent protest on the other side of the parking lot from Planned Parenthood. There was a young woman there protesting us. She told me she had a three-year-old she wished she’d aborted. I shared my story with her, and as I did, she told me the sun was getting in her eyes so that was why she had to wipe the tears from her face.

When it comes to details, I reveal those that point back to God. If details are circumstantial and point to me, I leave them out. If someone is bravely sharing his or her story for the first time in a group that loves him or her, I say, share everything you want.

Q: How do we do the hard things God asks of us when it goes against what we want for ourselves?

It’s hard to do what God wants me to do when it goes against what I want for myself. I think we take one day at a time. We commit to obey Him today, and then tomorrow. We ride on the joy from yesterday’s obedience as we bravely obey Him today. I try to remember giving God glory isn’t always about making God famous to others. I make God famous to Himself when I step out and trust that obeying Him is worth it every time. 

Q: Living a life dedicated to making God bigger in the eyes of those around us is seldom easy. What tips can you offer for keeping our spiritual energy and focus strong?

Having a spiritual reset every day is key for me. This is hard, but carving out time to spend with God before my day starts is helpful. When I do this, I respond to my kids better, I’m quicker to obey God, I serve my husband with a happy heart, and I’m open to needs around me.

Once a month, I meet with women who are super passionate about Jesus. I used to think to myself, Man, I would love to get together with her and her and her and her, but I just don’t have time. So I put a regular date on the calendar, asked these women to come to my house, and talk about life and God. We hold one another accountable too. It’s fulfilling (because it’s Biblical!), and though these women didn’t know each other before our once-a-month meetings, they look forward to it as much as I do.

Q: How can believers discover the unique gifts God has given them and then learn the most effective ways to use those gifts?

I think it’s the simple act of paying attention. In Chasing Famous, I offer questions we can ask ourselves to discover our gifts, including:

·         What activity, when completed, leaves you with a ‘high,’ and you can’t wait to do again?
·         What do people cheer you on about?
·         What would you do for free?

As we discover our gifts, we are not guaranteed to be released to use them in world-changing ways, but we can find small ways to use them. Our spiritual gifts are for the body of Christ to encourage and build each other up. If my true desire in discovering my gifts is to use them for this reason, then I don’t have to have a spotlight or a superstar platform to be effective. Instead, I’m obedient to use my gifts however and whenever God opens the door for me.

Q: You devote a chapter to comparing ourselves to others and being dissatisfied with our talents. How do we combat the poison of comparison and learn to embrace our unique, God-given skills and talents?

I’m in the habit of comparing myself but not in the habit of seeing myself as gifted by God. If I want to embrace my unique God-given skills and talents, I must get off “repeat.” This is a decision I must make every day. Second Peter 1:3 (NLT) tells us, “God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” I don’t have to find it; it’s already there. But it’s a decision and a mindset shift. To get the focus off myself, I will have to fight the enemy daily whose greatest fear is that I would make God famous by embracing who God’s made me to be so He can release all of Himself through me. It’s possible and doable, only if I remind myself of Who needs to stand center-stage of my life.

View the book trailer for Chasing Famous and learn more about Lisa Lloyd at chasingfamousbook.com, on Facebook (LisaJLloyd), and via Twitter (@LisaJLloyd).