Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The effective use of the #hashtag

This week's Litfuse video takes a look at the hashtags. What platforms should you use hashtags in? What applications don't really use hashtags? When I do use them, how many should I use? Caitlin and I go into all of these questions and more.

You can watch our tips via the Facebook live video here. The videos aren't available forever, so if you are catching this post months after I post it, you may not be able to access it anymore.

I will embed a video here though. A few years ago, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake did this skit. After I saw it the first time, every time I talked about hashtags, I wanted to do the hand gesture.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Remembering Christy with Katherine Reay


We've teamed up with some fabulous authors as they remember Christy . . . 
and you could win $100!

We're excited to be partnering with Gilead Publishing to create and distribute videos featuring some of your favorite authors sharing their memories of reading Catherine Marshall's Christy! The five videos will be released week by week every Monday. One reader who shares the videos on his or her social media platforms or blog will receive a $100 Amazon gift card! To enter, fill out  this form. You can fill it out for as many times as you share the videos. The winner will be announced March 2 and contacted via email.


This week's video features author Katherine Reay! Click here to share the video.

Monday, February 26, 2018

I love you, and I love you, and I love you. Arie loves them all! #thebachelor

Tonight's episode of The Bachelor picks up in Ica, Peru, also known as a place where Arie can see himself falling in love. (Yes, that is part sarcasm, but he really did say it.)

His first date is with Kendall. He always has fun with Kendall. 

Because Ica is where the desert meets the sea, they ride a dune buggy through the sand dunes. They have a driver, but the driver gets stuck going over a ridge. At least it seems that way. Then, they do the equivalent of snowboarding on the sand.

Kendall has to decide if she's ready to say, "Yes," if Arie proposes. She's not quite ready yet. She wants Arie to like her beyond being quirky and liking taxidermy. I'm sure the dead rats are not a reason he likes her, as such.

Later that evening, after hosing off all the sand, it's wine and dine. Arie thinks because they have so much fun, they don't really ask the hard questions of each other. Kendall says that's why she appreciated him pulling her aside during the last rose ceremony. Arie wants her to be ready for this.

Arie pulls out the fantasy suite card and asks Kendall what she thinks. She wants to know there is more than just the physical side. Since they have talked a little more today, she wants to "forgo" their individual rooms.

They were up all night "talking." The conversation evidently included a discussion of how she likes her eggs cooked because that's how he makes them for her the next morning.

He's falling in love with Kendall.

Next up is Arie's date with Lauren. He is excited to see her. 

They take a small plane and fly over geoglyphs. Arie explains what these are technically. They are basically crop circles but in shapes of other things like monkeys and birds.

Arie thinks Lauren is in her head. As usual, she's uber quiet.

Once they land and have lunch, she talks a little more. Lauren says she can see a future with him. However, the stronger her feelings are for him, the stronger her fears become (such as getting hurt). She needs to feel like she's the only girl he sees.

Arie thinks they are losing time together because he is spending his time reassuring her.

Over dinner, Arie tells Lauren that the sense of heaviness was obvious on the flight today, but he also tells her it is going to get harder. Lauren says she knows that he has reassured her all along the way, but she's been freaking out. It's because she really has feelings for him and is battling herself over the fact there are still other girls there. I don't know if she's digging for more clues about his plans for beyond next week or what.

Arie does get around to telling her how hard he has fallen for her. He does feel confident and actually says, "I love you." Kissy, kissy, fantasy suite card.

One thing is for sure, I don't think they stay up all night talking. One thing I absolutely know is that "How Do I Live Without You" (especially that rendition of it) playing in the background as they go to the fantasy suite is horrendous.

The next morning all is unicorns and rainbows. Lauren loves Arie, and she can't see Arie ending up with anyone else but her.

Final date of the week is Becca. 

There was something about her I liked from the beginning. I think she's the best choice of who is left. They go off on a boat and see seals and a huge flock of birds (seriously, that's what they show). She is giddy in love with him.

They lay back and talk about fears. Could they do long distance? Becca talks about doing long distance with her ex and how she always was the one putting out the effort. Arie flatly says, "Yeah, we've talked about that."

That night, they head to a fancy tent out on the dunes. She asks him about fears again. He enjoyed talking about the future today. He does kind of fear picking the wrong person.

These conversations have been so boring. She gets around to telling Arie that she loves him. In turn, Arie says he is falling in love with her. Three for three there, Arie.

Of course, it's a yes to the fantasy suite card. Their suite is a little pyramid tent. Kind of cool, but not as fancy as the other suites.

In his interview, Arie says he's about ready to propose in the sand dunes.

The next morning, Becca sees her life partner and the father of her children. She's definitely the one who is most vocal about her feelings.

Meanwhile back somewhere in town is Becca's ex, Ross. He didn't know this show ended in a proposal. Becca is the love of his life, and he went through a lot to track her down and find her. After Arie and Becca get back from the desert, Ross comes knocking on Arie's door. 

Ross comes on in to sit down and talk to Arie. Ross is more attractive than Arie, but that's beside the point. Ross says that the proposal at the end is his to give Becca. She's the only thing that's been on his mind for a year. He had to figure out how to reach someone with the show, then fly/drive/etc. to get to where they are in Peru.

Even though Becca and Ross were together for seven years, they broke up a year ago. Arie tells Ross if Becca isn't interested in getting back with him (Ross), he hopes Ross respects the relationship between him (Arie) and Becca. Ross sets out to find Becca.

When Becca opens the door, her facial expression is interesting. She wants to know how he found her. She won't let him into her room, but agrees to talk to him for a few minutes. Becca says she knew he was going to do this. He lays down some limpy tulips next to her. You can tell Ross doesn't want to talk in front of the cameras. Ross tells her he is there to win her back. He wants to marry her. Becca doesn't want him back. Ross admits defeat and leaves feeling a fool.

Becca is mad that Ross spoke to Arie. She hopes Arie doesn't doubt anything going on with them just because Ross showed up.

Arie needs to know that Becca's relationship is completely in the past. She arrives at Arie's door next and apologizes for Ross showing up. When Arie asks how she is, the answer is shocked and mad. He wants her to talk. This guy shows up thinking there might be some possibility of Becca coming back to him. Becca has been emotional talking about him before. It leaves Arie with some questions.

Prior to the rose ceremony, Arie has to sit down and talk to Chris Harrison. They talk about each woman. Once we see all the women getting ready for the ceremony and talking about how they feel, it's time to hand out roses.

Arie's speech is about how he knows this is going to lead to a proposal next week. Before he calls out the first name, he asks to talk to Kendall again. Off they go leaving Becca and Lauren behind. He pulls her aside because while they had a great time together, he just doesn't know that they can get to where he is with the others by next week. She saw it coming.

Arie walks Kendall to the car and sends her off. She wishes their connection started sooner because who knows where they may have ended up.

When he returns back to the others, Lauren gets the first rose and Becca the second. Arie tells them that next week they will meet his family.

I've read spoilers about all this drama Chris Harrison promises. Despite the amount of drama, I cannot believe it will be THREE HOURS on Monday. I don't know if I can deal.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

We interrupt the usual Sunday blog to bring you #thebachelor The Women Tell All

I posted my Sunday video on Saturday so that my post on The Bachelor wouldn't be double long on Monday. Tonight was a special Sunday night episode of The Bachelor: The Women Tell All, so you get back-to-back posts.

Tonight is supposed to be one of the most dramatic Women Tell All ever, of course, followed by an ending to the season like never before. We wouldn't expect anything less.

After starting off with a "Best Of" reel from Tell Alls past featuring some women I remember, but not necessarily which men they were after each time, we are re-introduced to 18 women (from the 29 was it?) from this season. There's three left, so I guess eight of the early departures aren't there. I have to be honest, I couldn't have picked several of these out of a line-up. The season has gone by quickly, but I might just be losing my memory. Honestly, I've had some other, heavier, things on my mind lately, so maybe that played a part. There's always the case they weren't that memorable and were only shown for five minutes anyway.

Cue the video reel of everyone reacting to how hot they thought Arie was. Then, Annaliese talking about all her traumatic moments and the women making fun of her. Then more women making fun of other women. Everyone talking about Bekah M's immaturity. Their live reactions of the reel... Everyone making fun of Krystal and Krystal's ridiculousness.

There's a discussion of glam-shaming or not glam-shaming. Was Chelsea glam-shamming Marikh?Chelsea gives Marikh a mirror so she never has to look at her hair in a compass again, and Marikh just puts it down on the floor.

Then, the conversations to Bekah M. and the age thing. She and Tia get into it. Bekah is distracting because her earrings are bigger than her head and have feathers. Some women defend Bekah's age and maturity. I guess we'll get to rehash this later when she gets on the hot seat.

OH MY GOODNESS. Bekah just apologized for being born in 1995. I just realized I graduated high school the year she was born. I knew she was young, but it just dawned on me.

All the women start bickering about something. I'm still getting over this 1995 thing, so I don't know what it was about. Chris Harrison calls a time out for commercial.

The first person on the hot seat is Krystal, the most annoying breather ever.

Cue the clip of the first time Arie met Krystal and their deep breathing. Then, the first date in Arizona, followed by the clips of her not wanting to tell the girls about her date. From there, it's a move into Krystal's whiniest moments. Some never before scenes of Krystal using bleepable language leaves Bibiana with her jaw on the ground. We end with scenes of Krystal being passive aggressive before she is ultimately left alone on the two-on-one date.

Chris asks Krystal how she feels watching it. She says in retrospect she should have been nicer and develop friends. The women light into her, especially the barely memorable Caroline who says Krystal acted like a sociopath in every interview. The women start talking over each other again.

After another commercial, Chris asks about the bowling date. Krystal defends her actions by saying she felt rejected by Arie allowing the losers to come on the date. She was concentrating on her relationship with Arie, not her relationships with anyone else or anyone else with Arie.

Sienne just wants her to acknowledge that she said rude things about all the rest of them. Oliivia asks what her real voice sounds like because she sounds different now than the breathy one she had on the show. She claims she lost her voice for six weeks while she was on the show and was quieter and gentler in talking to Arie. Krystal closes her interview by saying she behaved like she did because she was trying to gain control. She adds that her younger brother saw her on the show and realized how much she cared for him, so is now off the streets and her family is closer. Therefore, doing the show was worth it.

Moving on, we are reminded of Sienne's time on the show via her highlight reel.

Sienne talks about her time with Arie, how she sees she didn't have the relationship some of the others had. However, she was a little confused by how well their date was going during the day to be sent home at the end of the night. I really don't know why she landed in the hot seat.

It's time for Bekah M. and talk of her age. And more talk about her age. And...

Now, I absolutely think she was too young, but the comments about her age now impact her off the show. She rightly points out that there were women just a couple of years older than her on the show, but no one made a deal about them. Bekah points out it was Arie thinking he was too old for her.

Chris asks about the missing person's story. It all boils down to her not having phone service on the marijuana farm she was at while camping out with friends for a couple of weeks.

They call her mom to make sure Mom doesn't report her missing. It's here that Chris tells Mom she will be missing a couple of weeks in the summer because she'll be on Bachelor in Paradise.

Time for Tia. 

Oh, now, I remember the awful introduction via Weiner jokes. (Yes, I have to spell it wrong according to auto correct because that is the way the town spells it.) She gets emotional watching her highlights, especially getting sent home. She really could see a future, introduced him to her family, and was in love with him.

Chris reveals that when Arie came back in after letting her go and said he may have made a mistake.

Arie finally comes out.

Right off the bat, Tia asks about why he sent her home over Kendall. Arie tells about where he was in the moment and the question he asked Kendall.

Chris asks Jacqueline if there is anything she wanted to say. She defends Arie regarding some thing that were said about her focusing on her PhD. They were just ready for two different things at that point. All is good.

They move on to talking about Bekah and her age. He was afraid at her age she may not have been ready for marriage in the same way he was. It really did throw him off when he learned her age.

Caroline then hits him with, "You said you wanted to get married this whole time. I know what you did, and I don't know how you could do that." Arie and some of the women know what she's saying, but I have no idea what's going on there. Evidently, it applies to how the season ends, but no one can talk about it.

Krystal asks to share the couch with Arie. She says their goodbye felt cold to her. He says, "Looking back, it seems pretty appropriate." BURN! Now that he has watched back, he thinks he let it go on further than it should have because of the hurtful things Krystal said about him and about the women. 

Then she talks about dangling carrots and spending time with other girls. His response, "This is The Bachelor." He maturely tells her that up until now, he gave her the benefit of the doubt. Chris Harrison says, "You haven't even seen the ____________________ clip." I think he may have back stage. 

I've actually been impressed with how Arie has handled himself the whole time. Other than all the kissing, he has been pretty mature and even headed.

Time for the blooper reel and previews of the next episode. Chris promises it is is an ending you don't see coming. He should have let Caroline talk more because she's more convincing than Chris Harrison.

The credits roll to clips of Arie actually eating all of his meals this season. That may have been the best part of the show.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy

I'm posting my Sunday video on Saturday this week because I have another post this week for Sunday night. I could post a crafty picture tonight because I did spend some time in the studio, but I'll save it for when I have more than one project to post. ;)

I go back a few years for this post. Peyton looks so different in this video and Tatum on the end was so little. Those songbooks were new then. They are raggedy rough now.



I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy
By George W. Cooke

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart,
Down in my heart, 
Down in my heart,
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart, 
Down in my heart to stay.

Chorus
And I’m so happy, so very happy
I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart,
Down in my heart,
And I’m so happy, so very happy,
I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart.

I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus
Down in my heart,
Down in my heart, 
down in my heart,
I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus
Down in my heart, 
Down in my heart to stay.

Chorus 

I’ve got the peace that passes understanding
Down in my heart,
Down in my heart, 
Down in my heart,
I’ve got the peace that passes understanding
Down in my heart, 
Down in my heart to stay.

Chorus 

I’ve got the wonderful love of my blessed Redeemer
Way down in the depths of my heart.
Way down in the depths of my heart,
Way down in the depths of my heart,
I’ve got the wonderful love of my blessed Redeemer
Way down in the depths of my heart,
Way down in the depths of my heart to stay.

Chorus 

And if the Devil doesn’t like it,
He can sit on a tack, 
Sit on a tack,
Sit on a tack.
And if the Devil doesn’t like it,
He can sit on a tack, sit on a tack to stay.



Friday, February 23, 2018

FAQ on Publicity and Such

This week's video started off talking about what a publicist does vs. what an agent is for. Then, we delved into the essentials of self-publishing.

I can't share the embed of the video because it is not up on YouTube, but for a while, it will be housed on Facebook. For the time being, you can watch it here.

Here's a couple of the key points in really quick summary.

A book agent helps you get a publisher and book deal. A publicist gets you interviews and reviews once your book is published. A publicist seeks out media. If you are looking speaking events, you will probably need a speaker's bureau or speaking agent.

There are three things that every book must have (I don't mean characters, plot and conflict). This is especially true of all self-published books. These are areas you cannot skip. They are:

  1. A professionally designed cover by someone who is an excellent graphic designer. Books are judged by the cover. A bad Photoshop job or plain, ugly fonts can kill your book.
  2. A well-written back cover. Sometimes an author is too close to the story to do this effectively. Let other people read it and give you feedback. Does it make sense? Is it interesting? Would you want to read it? (I have read some cover copy that I honestly left me confused as to whether or not the book was fiction or non-fiction. That's not good.)
  3. Professional copy and content edits by an experienced book editor. This is more than proofreading for errors (and yes, every book has a few). This includes all sorts of editing for grammar and such, but also for story consistencies, historical or Biblical references, flow, etc. 
Although that's the nutshell of the advice, do watch the video for entertainment value alone!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Remembering "Christy" with Deborah Raney


We've teamed up with some fabulous authors as they
remember Christy . . . and you could win $100!

We're excited to be partnering with Gilead Publishing to create and distribute videos featuring some of your favorite authors sharing their memories of reading Catherine Marshall's Christy! The five videos will be released week by week every Monday. One reader who shares the videos on his or her social media platforms or blog will receive a $100 Amazon gift card! To enter, fill out  this form. You can fill it out for as many times as you share the videos. The winner will be announced March 2 and contacted via email.


This week's video features author Deborah Raney!
If you would like to get more info and share the video, click here!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life

Part 2 of an interview with Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connelly,
Authors of Gospel Fluency Handbook: A Practical Guide to
Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life



Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connelly wrote Gospel Fluency Handbook: A Practical Guide to Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life (Saturate Resources) to help individuals and groups become fluent in the gospel. “To be fluent in the gospel is to know is so well it becomes like a mother tongue,” explains Vanderstelt. “When I am fluent, I am able to filter all of life through the truths of the gospel and am readily able to speak those truths into any situation or struggle we are facing at any time.”

The discussions and exercises in this eight-week interactive handbook provide a step-by-step immersion of the reader’s mind, heart, soul and life in the gospel. Each week follows a simple format: three sets of personal readings and reflections and a weekly guide for group discussion and exercises that will lead to becoming a more gospel-fluent people — people learning to see and then speak the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life.
  
Q: Why is it hard for many people to talk to others about Jesus? How do we grow our love for Jesus?

Ben Connelly: There are many reasons it’s hard to talk about Jesus. Some are ill-motivated: we don’t want people to think us weird or to be offended by the cross (which God promises through Paul is offensive!). On the other hand, sometimes we hold back from seemingly good motivations; we don’t want to misrepresent God, or we feel inadequate to answer questions fully we might receive. Both sides of this present an opportunity to practice gospel fluency. In the ill-motivated reasons for holding back, we’re asked to consider who we’re esteeming highest. Do we care more about God and His ways or others’ view of us? There are implications in that answer, displaying our belief, hope and rest in God. Even in the better motivations, we have a chance to consider whether we’re relying too highly on ourselves and our abilities. After all, the Bible promises humans are inadequate; we can’t know the depths and riches of the glories of God! When we remember the gospel, even in our own non-sharing of it, God gives us a right view of Himself and ourselves, and those right views can give us the freedom to talk to others about Jesus.

Jeff Vanderstelt: It’s also a matter of affection. We talk most about what we love most. We will sacrifice most for what we love most. I have no problem getting people to talk about their children or grandchildren, favorite sports team or hobby. We also talk about what we believe works, and we share that with people we truly love. If our hearts are affected deeply by the love of God in Christ Jesus, we will talk about it. If we love Jesus, believe he can change lives and love our co-workers, friend, neighbors and family, we will share whom we love (Jesus) so they can experience the transformation he brings.

I also don’t want to leave out the reality we are in a spiritual battle, and anytime we are given the opportunity to share the gospel news that sets captives free, we should recognize the real battle going on to keep people in spiritual captivity. This isn’t just a philosophical discussion. This is a spiritual war for souls. Don’t be surprise if you sense internal and external opposition.

Q: How do Christians often misapply Paul’s instruction to speak the truth in love?

BC: It seems that misapplication typically happens in one of three ways. In the first two, we miss one half of God’s charge; we speak the cold, hard, objective truth (at least our perception of the truth) without love (without listening to or considering the heart of the person we speak to and, in this sense, disvaluing the person). Or we prioritize “love” (or again, our perception of love) without truth (downplaying God and His calls to godliness and obedience, thus valuing the person too highly and not wanting to hurt feelings, reputations, etc.). Neglecting either half can leave a conversation without wisdom or fruit. The third misapplication of this verse, though, starts with a wrong definition of “truth.” While we hold to the entire Bible as God’s truth, the specific “truth” referenced in this verse is the gospel. If we simply declare biblical commands to people — if we tell them what to believe and do or what not to believe and do — we miss the point of this verse altogether. A biblical view of humanity says we cannot know or obey God on our own; we must rest in the good news of Jesus even in our (failed) attempts to know and live for him. Just spouting off Bible verses or correctives misses the point of God’s instruction in this verse.

JV: In Ephesians 4:15, the place where we find the phrase “speak the truth in love,” Paul says it is by speaking the truth in love we grow up in every way into Christ. Then, in verse 21, he clarifies the truth is in Jesus. In other words, as Ben said, if we are going to help people grow up into Christ in every way, we will need to practice speaking the truths of Jesus into everything. That’s very different than just confronting people in their sin or just loving them regardless but never directing them to Jesus.

Q: As we work to become fluent in the gospel, what are some of the vocabulary words in which we need a refresher course?

BC: Grace. That’s the first and primary word we need to remember; it’s the word that defines Christianity. It means we don't have to prove anything because for the Christian we’ve already been proven to God through the blood of Jesus.

Other concepts that form a foundation for gospel fluency might be:

·         God’s faithfulness: His promises are always true
·         His goodness: He alone satisfies
·         His glory: He alone is worth living for
·         His sovereignty: He alone is in control, always and in everything
·         Our identity in Christ: by which we remember we’re formed, named and defined primarily by God.

Without knowing and believing these concepts, there isn’t an ability to see God or ourselves rightly, and it will be hard to become increasingly fluent and to see the gospel as the hope and solution to every situation we face in life.

JV: I would also add grace is not only unmerited acceptance and favor from God, which it is. It is also divine empowerment granted to us by the Spirit. I often hear people speak of grace regarding God’s posture toward us. Yet it is God’s grace that also empowers us to live a new life, which leads to another word: salvation or saved. Most people see salvation as primarily a past action (“I was saved”), but in 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul clarifies we are also being saved through the gospel. In 1 Peter 1:3–5, Peter speaks of a future salvation. The gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16) — salvation from the penalty of sin (past), salvation from the power of sin (present) and salvation from the presence of sin (future).

Q: How can we display the work of God to the world without looking like we are trying to show off?

BC: This is a hard question. Posture may make all the difference in the world, as it relates to our outward expression of God’s work. For example, we’ve all experienced two people carrying out the same task or accomplishing the same goal, and we can all tell the difference in a posture of humility versus a posture of pride. If we’re fully honest, though, we each know we can fake a posture of humility, as well, to look good in others’ eyes! At its core, this may be an issue of the heart and of integrity. We can pursue even “great things for God” from a self-focused motivation or from a God-focused one, and both can look the same outwardly. The answer may be a gut-check on our inward motivation and on our heart condition. It may be something God alone knows for certain. However, thinking and speaking less and less of ourselves and thinking and speaking more and more of God may be one step in the right direction.

JV: I think we should ask ourselves regularly, “Who is this for? Who do I want to notice?” The answer reveals who our audience is. The other question is, “Who or what is this in service to?” In other words, what am I hoping will be the outcome? What’s driving this behavior? Brother Lawrence put himself in a position of washing dishes so he could learn to worship God in the mundane, unnoticed activities. I regularly check myself by seeing if I’m willing to engage in the activities that are so normal in my household our children forget it even happens (like cooking, picking up loose laundry, washing dishes, etc.).

Q: In a world so hostile toward Christianity, what advice do you offer readers for courageously proclaiming the gospel?

BC: Gospel proclamation can often feel like a big, scary, “one-shot-to-get-right-before-all-is-lost” reality. Certainly, some are gifted evangelists and see fruit in big, overt, even public gospel presentations. The reality is that many Christians aren’t gifted as evangelists but are still part of God’s great commission. For most of us, then, there are moments in many conversations every day to share bits of what we believe to be true about Jesus with those who don’t believe. If the gospel truly is good news in the everyday stuff of life, then sharing how specific aspects of that good news applies to certain situations, even in small ways and throughout time, can be meaningful and fruitful. This may sound silly, but in our church we talk regularly about how the gospel is like a diamond; while there is one diamond, it is inherently beautiful. There are innumerable angles from which we can approach that one diamond, and each angle from which we view it gives us different, nuanced appreciation of its beauty. We can speak the good news of Jesus into one “angle” of someone’s life, and while we haven’t given them the whole gospel, we’ve shown a meaningful way the gospel applies to that situation. Throughout time as relationships build, we get to speak to multiple angles of their lives. As we do, and only by God's grace and Spirit’s work, our hope and prayer can be that they get a fuller picture of the gospel in all its beauty and glory, that they one day believe it’s the only good news worth believing and that they trust Jesus.

JV: I want to remind people that Jesus promised the Spirit would both witness to our hearts about the truths of Jesus needed in the moment, as well as bring words to mind about what we should said. We need to cultivate listening hearts to the Spirit’s prompting and try not to force conversations where the Spirit is not leading or opening doors. Also, remember we don’t save people. God does. We are called to be Jesus’ witnesses about what he has done and is doing in our lives and in what he has done and is doing in the world. As we regularly speak of what Jesus has done to one another, it becomes more natural to do that with people who don’t yet know and love Jesus. Lastly, we must speak in love. Sometimes people are offended not because of the message of the gospel, but because the messenger is offensive in how they bring it. I ask myself regularly, “How can I share the good news to this person so it actually sounds like good news?” If it doesn’t even sound like good news to me, I have probably lost the heart of the gospel being good news for others. Remember the gospel is good news to those being saved and foolishness, not bad news, to those perishing. In most cases, the gospel should sound either too good to be true or not necessary because they don’t believe they need it yet. However, it should not come across as bad news.

Q: Can you share a little bit with us about Saturate the World? What resources are available from your website?

JV: Saturate is committed to seeing a gospel saturation movement happen in North America and beyond. We want to partner with God, like-minded churches and individuals as He brings about the vision of seeing every man, woman and child have a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed. We believe our responsibility in this vision is providing gospel-centered training, resourcing and coaching for the purpose of starting, supporting and strengthening churches committed to gospel saturation. To this end, Saturate discovers and curates some of the best practices and learnings from proven practitioners and repackages them for the church at large. We also provide training events, coaching, church health assessments and platforms for learning communities to support individuals and churches toward accomplishing the vision of gospel saturation.

Learn more about more about Gospel Fluency Handbook at www.gospelfluency.com

Click here for a preview of the video series.




Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Win a copy of Lisa T. Bergren's Keturah

Travel back in time to 1772 England and meet Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson, who has to go to the West Indies to save what is left of her family’s heritage in Lisa T. Bergren’s new book, Keturah. Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. To keep her family together and save the plantation that is her last chance at providing for them, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?
Enter to win a copy of Keturah. Five winners will be chosen! Click the image below to enter to win. The winners will be announced March 13 on the Litfuse blog!


{MORE ABOUT KETURAH}


(The Sugar Baron’s Daughters) (Bethany House, February 2018)
In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.
Although it flies against all the conventions, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, conventions are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined–and that’s just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this harsh and unfamiliar world.
Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.
To keep her family together and save the plantation that is her last chance at providing for them, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?
Lisa Bergren

{MORE ABOUT LISA BERGREN}


Lisa T. Bergren has published more than 40 books with more than 3 million books sold combined. She’s the author of the Christy Award-winning “Waterfall,” RITA®-finalist “Firestorm,” bestselling “God Gave Us You,” and popular historical series like Homeward, Grand Tour, and more. She’s also a recipient of the RT Lifetime Achievement Award. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and three teen-and-older children.
Find out more about Lisa at http://lisatawnbergren.com.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Only on #thebachelor would playing with dead rats pass for a good date

If the previews are any indication, Arie isn't going to have fun visiting the hometowns and meeting families this week. The dads all seem pretty intense. 

Of course, three minutes after that in the context of the show, they will change their minds and give a blessing. At least, that's how it usually turns out.

First up is a trip to Kendall's hometown of Los Angeles. Arie may be scared off immediately when he sees Kendall's taxidermy collection which ranks with the one the dad had a few seasons ago. (Was it during Juan Pablo's season? I know I blogged about it, but can't find it with the search.) It reminds me of a trophy room here in town, and I have to say again what I am sure I have said before. Taxidermy creeps me out. There are some odd creatures. She says it's a way for her to appreciate animals. 

Kendall then gives him lessons in mounting rats that she then dresses up to represent the two of them. She even built a set for them. According to her, taxidermy is like a perfect relationship because it's something that lasts forever. Y'all, I'm telling you I'm about to come undone. When Kendall's relatives die, I can only imagine...

He takes it all in stride and enjoys it because they are doing it together. Arie says if he ends up with Kendall, she can have her taxidermy room, and he'll have his garage with cars.

After hopefully, washing their hands, they have some lemonade and talk about who he will be meeting. Dad, mom, brother and twin sister. The twin sister is supposed to be tough. 

Kendall's family asks what they did today. When she tells them about the rats, her sister claims Kendall is different as if Arie hasn't already noticed. Mom (Michelle) takes Kendall off to talk. Kendall tells mom about Arie saying that he's falling for her. Twin sis talks to Arie. Kylie says she sees something there, but also sees distance. Arie says he feels connected and is falling for her. There's chemistry, Kendall is the most interesting person he's ever dated... Yet, she's intellectual, and is she going to be ready from that standpoint for a proposal?

Kylie is worried about Kendall jumping in. The two sisters talk next. Kylie doesn't get the vibe that Kendall thinks this is undeniable love.

Arie talks to Dad (Bob) next. Dad is skeptical and brings up that if Arie asks permission to propose, the answer is, "No." This is because he doesn't think Kendall is there yet. Maybe eventually, and in that case they would be supportive. Kendall admits to Kylie that at the moment she is not ready to be engaged, but in two weeks... She is afraid to lose him. Kylie says she needs to be telling Arie this. however, they do not dig in before Arie heads off to his next city.

Next stop is Weiner, Arkansas, Tia's hometown. Population 716. I know places like this. They do have a racetrack nearby though, so that's where she takes him... to race old cars on a dirt track. 

Arie is obviously better at this than she is. When they climb out of their cars, they find a truck with a tailgate, pop open a beer, and talk about her family. He will meet Mom (Denise), Dad (Kenny), brother Jason, Aunt Carol and cousin Rhonda. The brother is the one most likely to ask, "What are your intentions...?"

Dad is anxious to meet Arie and jokes about getting out his shotgun. He thinks the handshake is going to tell them everything. When they arrive, they have a tray out on the table with Little Smokies cocktail wienies and pigs in a blanket. When in Weiner...

Brother takes him outside to talk. He's heard Arie is the kissing bandit and assorted rumors. He wants Arie to convince him that's not who he is. Arie says, "Well, I didn't give myself my own nickname. That was the name I was given last time, but I have grown up in the time since then."

Brother is bald, has earrings like Mr. Clean, and with the accent, he comes off intimidating. However, Arie wins him over.

Dad talks to Tia, and wants to know if it is luuvvv. Dad heard he might be a ladies' man. Dad turns into mush and says, alright when Arie asks permission if it gets to that point. "If you hurt her, I can find you on Google," Dad warns.

While Tia does talk to her mom, I'm not sure why the aunt and cousin are there. I had to back it up to see if they really were.

On the porch swing before he leaves, Tia professes her love for Arie. With that, it's off to another woman. 

Arie heads to Minneapolis, Becca's home. She has a day at the apple orchard planned. They pick and eat apples. Her family had a couple of apple trees when she was a kid and has great memories of her family and apples growing up. He climbs a tree, carves their initials in another, make caramel apples, and have a good ol' time. 

Becca gives the rundown of who will be there. Her mom (Jill), Uncle Gary (a minister  - she asks Arie if she has mentioned this before) who was like a second father since Becca's father died when she was 19, then they get to talking about Gary, and we don't know who else will be there. Becca warns that Uncle Gary will ask lots of questions about the process and such. 

There are several uncles and aunts in attendance. One of which thinks this is all way to fast. Yeah, that was Gary talking before Arie and Becca arrived. 

Mom starts off the conversation by asking how this experience was different than when he was one of the 29. Everyone else at the table is giving some weird looks. Gary pulls Arie off to talk. Gary tells Arie about Becca's father, Steve. The family is close because they have seen so much illness and tragedy. Gary wants to know if this is the real deal, which Arie says it is. Arie says he has feelings for her. They talk about spiritual topics. Arie is not where Becca is in her faith, but tells Gary he would go to church with her if she were to go. 

Mom, Jill, says she likes Arie so far. Becca asks if Mom is ready if Arie asks for permission to propose. Mom is not ready. Becca does assure her that she sees a good father/partner in Arie. Her mom trusts her though. 

Mom talks to Arie next. Arie gives Jill permission to ask the hard questions. They talk about his parents' relationship and if he and Becca have a mutual level of commitment. As with every set of parents, Arie says he is falling for his/her/their daughter. He asks permission to propose. Mom says he trusts her daughter's decision. She also apologizes for her weird family which I suspect was stranger than what we saw.

Arie snuggles up with Becca before heading out of town. He tells Becca that Mom gave her blessing. 

The last stop on the hometown tour is Lauren's family abode in Virginia Beach. She has planned for them to ride horses on the beach. From there, they climb a lighthouse. Not much conversation, of course.

They eat crab legs as she tells him that her family is protective, so she has been nervous about introducing him. Mom wonders if he realizes how conservative the family is. There's parents, grandparents, and siblings. 

Right off the back, they ask Arie to speak something in Dutch. Then silence. She comes by her quietness honestly. Dad asks if he's ever met a military family. No. Does he play golf? Nope. 

As is the norm with Lauren, Arie has to step out of the room a minute. This time, it's because he is nervous and sweating. Can you say awkward?

Lauren's aunt is more talkative and has a conversation with her. Aunt would give a blessing though. 

Dad takes Arie outside. Arie tries to make conversation about flying planes. Arie wins Dad over easily when he tells a story about a number of racers going over to Iraq and visiting with the troops. Dad says that if Lauren likes him, he'll like him. The conversation goes better than expected.

Mom and Arie talk next. He's falling in love with her daughter. How about the others? Is he compartmentalizing the relationships? The yes answer concerns her. Mom asks if he is saying the same thing to all of them. Of course, he lies! He asks Mom for a blessing though. She has to defer to trusting Lauren.

Mom and Lauren talk next. It's a conversation without many words. Lauren says Arie is a lot like her though. Lauren says he thinks Arie is genuine and isn't saying the same thing to everyone. Mom doesn't believe her. 

Before he leaves, Arie and Lauren have a little talk. He tells Lauren that her mom was really hard on him. 

Everyone arrives back at the mansion in LA for the rose ceremony. I guess the family who lives there had to be kicked out again for a short period of time.

Arie arrives without knowing what he's going to do. He better make up his mind quick because the women are waiting on him. He walks in, starts his speech, then leaves the room like Lauren is the only one there. That's a joke. 

He comes back and says that honestly, the decision is terribly hard. He asks to talk to Kendall, so they walk out. The remaining ladies don't know what to think. 

Arie wants to know if she thinks she can get to the point of being ready to be engaged at the end. Is she ready to get married? At this very moment, she can't say she is ready to be engaged, yet she sees so much in him and isn't ready for it to end. Kendall doesn't know what he needs from her. 

Meanwhile, Tia wants to know who he is trying to choose between. She has to hush when Arie comes back in the room.

First rose goes to Becca. 

Second rose goes to Lauren.

After a long, dramatic pause, the final rose goes to Kendall.

Tia just got her answer. She goes home, and her dad can look up Arie on Google after he pulls out his shotgun.

Tia cries on Arie's shoulder, and he walks her out. She did not expect this. They sit outside by the fountain where he hugs her again. She wants to know what she did wrong. He assures Tia she didn't do anything wrong. No, she wasn't over confident. Arie admits he doesn't have a good explanation and that he sat up all night last night. There was just something missing. 

Arie puts Tia in the limo. Ugly cry time. Maybe for both of them. 

On Sunday, we get The Women Tell All. Then, on Monday, we get the fantasy suite week in Peru when someone's ex shows up.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Deep and Wide

I'm going deeper back into the archives for this week's video. This is about three years ago when the class was third, fourth and fifth graders.


Deep and Wide

Deep and wide. Deep and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.
Deep and wide. Deep and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

Hmmm and wide. Hmmm and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing hmmm and wide.
Hmmm and wide. Hmmm and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing hmmm and wide.

Deep and hmmm. Deep and hmmm.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and hmmm.
Deep and hmmm. Deep and hmmm.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and hmmm.

Hmmm and hmmm. Hmmm and hmmm.
There’s a fountain flowing hmmm and hmmm.
Hmmm and hmmm.
Hmmm and hmmm.
There’s a fountain flowing hmmm and hmmm.

Deep and wide. Deep and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.
Deep and wide. Deep and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

I said I wasn't going to write about #bachelorwintergames, but...

Image from https://twitter.com/BachWinterGames.

I know I said I wasn't going to blog about The Bachelor Winter Games, and I'm not going to do a recap post like I do for The Bachelor, but...

Oh, my goodness, y'all! If you watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, this is hilarious. I'm just finishing up the first of two episodes from this week. When the first episode started, with the parade of nations coming in (there are contestants from various countries) and the official anthem (which was horrendous and stupid), I thought, "This is going to be dumb." There still is an aspect of stupidity, don't get me wrong, but this is so much funnier than the normal show and so much better than Bachelor in Paradise.

I like people scrambling to find a connection - both men and women - and it's more interesting when you don't know EVERYONE. The people from other countries are interesting too. Except the girl from Japan who doesn't understand English. That's comedy relief too, but there's no way she's sticking around (well, she made it past the first episode, but still...). So far it's not as raunchy as Paradise.

I like the competition aspect. They compete in winter sports like the biathlon. Of course, very few have ever even been on skis. That's how you earn date cards (sort of like on Bachelor Pad).

Then, instead of every man picking a woman or vice versa when it's rose ceremony time, it's more like Survivor. The men vote a woman off, and the women vote a man off. The biggest vote getters go home. On the first episode, it's two men and three women. Who isn't there for the right reasons?

Observations:

Other countries consider a kiss more special than the Americans. In some countries, only the final contestant got a kiss.

Ashley I. aka Ash Kardash will never, ever, ever change. She laugh/cries, and the one guy she zeroes in on always likes someone else.

Clare (from Juan Pablo's season) may actually find love, but it's going to be with someone from another country for sure.

Chris Harrison should have kept the scruff through until the end because it was hot.


Most of the people voted off were from outside of the US. If I make it through the second episode, I may come back and add to my post.


Friday, February 16, 2018

God has named you brave

Part 2 of an interview with Kelly Johnson,
Author of Being Brave: A 40-Day Journey
to the Life God Dreams for You



God has made us brave, not fearful beings. In a forty-day devotional format, author and blogger Kelly Johnson invites readers to consider a new way of thinking about what it means to be brave and challenges them to seek a greater intimacy with God and the people God has placed in their life.

Through Scripture, stories, prayers, and thought-provoking questions, readers will recognize the seeds of divinely inspired bravery and learn the strength found in community. Using letters of the word brave as a guide, Being Brave highlights what God’s Word has to say about the characteristics of bravery: Bold, Resilient, Authentic, Vulnerable, and Engaged and Empowered by the Spirit.


God has named you brave. Being brave is your birthright as a child of God. You already have everything you need to live a life of passion, sacrifice, meaning, and purpose. You don’t need anything else to be ready. Many of us have been playing it safe when God wants us to be bold and hiding from one another when God wants us to live in community. Courage is more often experienced in community and naming one another brave is the path back to God and to the bigger, braver life we desire.

Q: How might being brave look different for different people?

Being brave or having courage means something different to all of us. We would all agree that a person on a battlefield requires a large degree of bravery. Facing a diagnosis of cancer or sitting with the pain of losing someone you love requires great courage as well. However, the need for bravery is not always black and white. What might be terrifying or hard for some might be easy for others.

For many of us, risking vulnerability and allowing ourselves to be seen as inadequate can be scary. For some of us, we are fearful of the unknown, of loss, of change, of that which we can’t control, of appearing foolish, and of not being able to protect those we love. Is being brave in those circumstances even related to the kind of bravery required to lay down your life in a combat zone? What does this other kind of everyday courage look like?

Being brave might include any or all of the following:
• Being willing to move forward, even when I’m scared.
• Living creatively, chasing my dreams, and not settling for safe.
• Being driven more by my curiosity than by my fears.
• Being vulnerable and authentic in my relationships, even though I can’t control the outcome.
• Trusting other people, even though I have been hurt.
• Being honest about who I am and what I want.
• Admitting when I am wrong and taking responsibility for my mistakes.
• Taking risks and being willing to fail.
• Asking for help.
• Believing my story is an important part of the larger story God is telling.
• Embracing progress, not perfection.


Authenticity and vulnerability build connection. Jesus reminds us the most important commandment is to love God with all our heart and to love one another as we love ourselves. Although God has created us for community, we often hide from each other in our more tender places. Comparison, competition, and perfectionism block connection and keep us stuck believing we are irreparably separated. Authenticity and vulnerability break down those walls and build the connection we long for, the connection for which we were made. Listening to one another, authentically sharing our lives with one another, and naming one another brave is the path back to God and to the bigger, braver life we desire.


Choosing when to speak up and when to remain silent is often a difficult choice. I find I make wiser choices when I stay connected to the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer. Slowing down to seek direction from God in a moment of disagreement, instead of responding impulsively in the heat of strong emotion, I am much more likely to communicate with respect. Whether we speak the truth in love, or choose to remain silent, we can trust God’s spirit of power, love, and self-discipline will be with us and guide us.



For the past ten years, I have had the privilege of serving at a local day shelter for homeless and poor individuals in our community called The Lamb Center. I have been deeply inspired by the staff, volunteers, and guests of The Lamb Center, and it has changed the way I think about what it means to be brave and live in community. It is my intention to donate part of my proceeds from sales of the book back to the ministry of The Lamb Center.

My friends at The Lamb Center have taught me that being brave means asking for help from God and from each other. We are always more courageous in community, but many of us equate self-reliance with strength. My friends at The Lamb Center are under no delusions and have no misconceptions that they have their lives under control. The pride and arrogance that plague many of us with comfortable homes and money in the bank have long since been left behind by my friends who sleep in the woods. Unlike many of us in more affluent circumstances, they know they need help because their circumstances leave them no alternative. Around our Bible study table each week, the masks of invincibility are left outside, and I am reminded how much we all need each other, regardless of our circumstances. God created us to lean on one another and to take care of one another.


Learn more about Being Brave and Kelly Johnson at www.KellyIveyJohnson.com. She is also active on Facebook (KellyJohnsonGraceNotes), Twitter (KellyLJ1), and Instagram (kellylj1).