Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hip, Hip, Hip, Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus Song

In the beginning, God made the sea
And the forest filled with trees
He made the mountains up so high
And on the top he placed the sky

God’s fingerprints are everywhere
Just to show how much He cares
But in between He had loads of fun
He made a hippo who weighs a ton.

Hip-hip-hooray! God made all of us.
Hip-hip-hooray! God made all of us.

Creation sings of His praise,
The sparrow and the tiny babe.
We can sing and say, “well done.”
But some things He just made for fun!


In the end He had lots of fun.
He made a kangaroo that jumps and runs.
Hip-hip-hurray God made me and you.
Hip-hip-hurray God made me and you.

In the end He had lots of fun.
He made a manatee just for fun.
Hip-hip-hurray God made you and me.

Hip-hip-hurray God made you and me.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The crafty post of the week

This week's Saturday craft post highlights my little booth at Mansfield High School this weekend.

To borrow a sports term, we were supposed to have a "split squad" today, and this was my event to work. Since the rest of the team faced a windy day and couldn't get the tents set up, the other event (for us anyway) was over before it began. I was worried about rain. A HUGE disappointment.

I'm ready for all of our good fall events now. That means I'll be working on Christmas soon. Are any of us ready for that?

Friday, April 28, 2017

How spiritually prepared are teens for college?

 Part 1 of an interview with Jonathan Morrow,
Author of Welcome to College:
A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey

College can be the most exciting, as well as the most frightening, time of a young person’s life. On one hand are all the freedoms a recent high school graduate craves, but on the other are all the freedoms that come with responsibility. It’s a challenging time, especially for Christians coming face-to-face with worldviews different from their own. In Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey (second edition) (Kregel Publications), Jonathan Morrow helps students tackle this new stage of life and emerge on the other side prepared for what God has planned for them.

Q: What are possibly the most frightening questions a graduating high school senior can be asked?

What are you going to do with your life? What’s your major going to be? Will you be able to get a job when you graduate? 

Students feel a lot of pressure to be, well, perfect. There’s a lot of anxiety to have it all together and everything figured out. Students feel pressure both from themselves and their parents (because most parents are spending a lot of money on college). They confess to feeling overwhelmed
by all the choices they have to make and the weight of the choices. The simple fact of the matter is they are often insecure and afraid of failing — especially at college. Then, if they are Christians, they have the added layer of trying to figure out what God would want them to do with their lives. All of this can be scary and overwhelming.

Q: We’ve all heard statistics about how many students walk away from their Christian faith during their college years. Are the numbers truly as bad as we have heard? 

To be clear — any student walking away from their faith is too much. I’ve seen statistics as high as 75% and as low as 40%, depending on the survey and how the question was asked. But let’s split the difference and say one out of two walk away. At the outset, parents and students need to know college is not faith-friendly. Intellectual, spiritual, moral and relational challenges are coming. According to a study done by Harvard and George Mason University, one out of four college professors is a professing atheist or agnostic (a percentage much greater than the general population, which is 5-7%).

As I’ve worked with high school and college students throughout the years, here are the three most common responses to the challenges they face:

First, students relativize their faith. I guess this is just true for me, this is what I believe and how I was raised. Faith kind of gets quiet in their lives as they get older.

Second, they drift or pretend. On the outside everything’s fine. On the inside though, it’s, “I’m not sure I really believe this anymore. What do I do with that because this place isn’t a safe place to ask questions or have doubts?”

Or third, they will simply walk away. “You know what? I don’t believe this anymore. It’s not worth it. I don’t think this is really true.” They are weary of pretending. 

What’s tragic about this is it doesn’t have to be that way. God has called students to do much more than only surviving. He has called them to engage our culture with the life-changing message of Jesus. This is one of the big reasons I wrote Welcome to College: to help prepare students for what we know is waiting on them in the college years. I want them to own their faith so they are ready to live it out.

Q: How important are the high school and college years in setting the trajectory for a life of following Jesus?

It’s critically important. If you get off-course in high school or college, it can have life-altering consequences.

Here are clarifying questions I like to ask students, “What story do you want to tell about the college years? Someday you will walk across the graduation stage and be filled with either satisfaction or regret. Which one do you want? Eventually you will summarize your college years in a few sentences. Why not go ahead and shape your future now?”

This final question will give students clarity. They also need to decide if they are serious about following Jesus or if they are going to drift into “playing Christian.” If they are serious about following Jesus, then they can set the destination they are pursuing early on, which will make all the difference. 

Q: When should a parent or youth worker first present your book to his or her student? 

I’ve been encouraged to hear how people are using Welcome to College. Some youth groups have purchased books to give away as graduation gifts. Parents have told me how they have read it along with their sons or daughters during their junior or senior year of high school. Together they have used the discussion questions in the back to start conversations.

In general, as soon as you can start the conversations, the better. Late middle school and early high school are great times to begin engaging your children on these topics.

Q: How can parents better prepare their children for the college experience, especially the new freedoms and responsibilities that come from being away from home?

Start now! Let them fail around you before they have true freedom for the first time away from you. Give them a long on-ramp of freedom and responsibility. Why? Because you don’t want the first time they experience freedom to be when they hit college campus and you aren’t around to help them choose wisely.

Imagine your son or daughter had never seen a Krispy Kreme donut, then when they got to college there was a dozen warm, gooey donuts in front of them. What are they going to do? Go crazy and eat them all. Give them some freedom now so they can fail around you, and you can help coach them as they fix it themselves. Don’t swoop in and fix it for them. Curfew is a good test case to begin exploring. Also, stay connected relationally. Don’t only focus on the details, finances, schedules and logistics; focus on the heart and excitement of this life transition. 

Q:  What advice do you have for parents who have teenagers on how to talk to them about the importance of truth and resist moral relativism?

First thing I would do is gently share that just because your son or daughter goes to church or a Christian school doesn’t mean he or she is not a closet relativist. He or she could be hearing great lessons and sermons each week, but if he or she has not been taught what truth is and the difference between objective and subjective truth, then he or she is more often than not simply and sub-consciously putting all that teaching into the “true for me” box in his or her worldview. Next, we need to give students space for questions and doubts. They need to wrestle with things to own it. We don’t just want them to give us the right answers, so press in to why. Lastly, love them unconditionally and be relationally present and engaged. That is the foundation for good conversations. Your faith shapes their faith.

Q: Tell us about how Welcome to College is set up and designed to be used. What are some of the topics you introduce and discuss?

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I began following Jesus as a high school junior at 17, so my “life” learning curve during the college years was pretty significant. I also had just about every anti-Christian professor along the way challenge my faith. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to believe in fairy tales; I began to explore if there were solid answers to the tough questions I was running into. After I graduated and got married, I told my wife that if God ever let me write a book, I wanted to write about everything I wish I would have known during the college years.

Typical graduation gift books have gold edges and little quotes, but my experience is that will evaporate in three minutes when the challenges of college life come. I wanted to write a book covering everything from evidence for God and the Bible, science and evolution to what to do with doubts, how to have healthy conflict with a roommate, how to discover God’s will and even how to have wise dating relationships, but in short four- or five-page chapters. A young person can read it straight through or turn to the issues he or she is struggling with. It can even be read in a small group of freshmen using the questions in the back. I heard from students at Clemson who were using it that way.

Find more resources to go along with Welcome to College at or visit Jonathan Morrow is also on Facebook (ThinkChristianlyOrg) and Twitter (@Jonathan_Morrow). 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Why are questions better than answers?

Randy Newman encourages Christians to
engage non-Christians by asking questions

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?

A Senior Fellow at The C. S. Lewis Institute, Newman has been using a questioning style of evangelism for years. In this provocative book, he provides practical insights to help Christians engage others in meaningful spiritual conversations. Asking questions, Newman suggests, doesn’t tell unbelievers what to think but instead challenges how we think about people, their questions and our message. He asserts that sometimes the best answer is a question. It’s the way Jesus often talked with people as He led them into discussions about the issues that mattered most.

The author admits he started using the questioning method of outreach 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,” he explains. “It also prompted me to study how Jesus answered questions with questions.”

A perennial best-seller, Questioning Evangelism has been updated in its second edition and includes a chapter in which Newman reflects on the success of the book and what the book’s popularity has taught him. Also included is a new foreword by Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ. However, the biggest change involves revisions to a chapter addressing a major hot topic that arises in opposition to Christianity in today’s world. “Fourteen years ago when I wrote a chapter on how we witness to homosexuals, readers may have found it odd. Back then, few people brought up the issue of homosexuality in the context of an evangelistic conversation,” muses Newman. “Today, however, people raise the question often, and it’s absolutely essential to address it.”

Questioning Evangelism offers sample conversations and suggested follow-up questions on a variety of topics that arise in evangelistic conversations, including:
  • Why are Christians so intolerant (or homophobic)?
  • Why does a good God allow evil and suffering such as terrorist attacks and AIDS?
  • Why should we believe an ancient book written by dead Jewish males?
  • If Jesus is so great, why are some of His followers such jerks?

While the book can be read for individual study, the book contains a study guide for small-group discussion and application. Newman hopes readers will discuss the book together, then share their successes and failures with one another as encouragement and to become more effective in future conversations.

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

Advance Praise

“Let Randy Newman teach you how to be a more effective ambassador for Jesus in the twenty-first century by doing more listening than talking, by validating the other person as being made in the image of God, and
by respecting their spiritual journey.”
~ Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ and Professor of Christian Thought Houston Baptist University

“Distilled out of 20 years of personal evangelism, this book reflects both a deep grasp of biblical theology and a penetrating compassion for people — and finds a way forward in wise, probing questions. How very much like the Master Himself!”
~ D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Questioning Evangelism steps outside the boundaries of evangelism as usual and tackles the tougher issues of our modern day.”
~ Mitch Glaser, President of Chosen People Ministries

About the Author

Randy Newman is the Senior Fellow for Evangelism and Apologetics at The C. S. Lewis Institute in the Washington, DC area. He is also an adjunct faculty at Talbot School of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary and Patrick Henry College.

After serving for more than 30 years with Campus Crusade for Christ, he established Connection Points, a ministry to help Christians engage people’s hearts the way Jesus did. He has written four books and numerous articles about evangelism and other ways our lives intertwine with God’s creation. He is a frequent conference speaker and specializes in helping people of different backgrounds dialogue about issues of faith.

He and his wife, Pam, live in Annandale, VA and have three grown sons, one delightful daughter-in-law and a stunningly adorable granddaughter. Randy blogs at

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

This often backfires

You know what happens when I stay up late working on projects? I either sell the last thing I made at the next event that goes well, or I made tons of stuff for no reason at all.

We've been looking forward to the coming weekend because one of our two events for the weekend was good for us last year. Derrick Days is a local outdoor event. The forecast is for thunderstorms all day Saturday. If it's like that, people aren't going to get out to go to the indoor event either. I really need to catch a break.

Let's pray the rain holds off until Sunday.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Think Again

Did you know there’s a dark side to introspection? If you’re feeling weighed down and exhausted by your own self-analysis, Jared Mellinger’s new book, Think Again, is for you. Think Again includes practical instructions for self-examination, fighting false guilt, breaking free from hyper-introspection, and more. Ultimately, Think Again demonstrates that the solution to thinking too much about ourselves is to look to Christ, and it gives readers the tools to begin to turn from the mirror. Keep up with the blog tour (4/18–5/2) and new reviews being posted daily here.


Think Again: Relief from the Burden of Introspection (New Growth Press, April 2017)
Evaluating yourself—being mindful of who you are and what you are doing—is necessary and can lead to positive change.
But what about the dark side of introspection? Do you ever feel weighed down and exhausted by your own self-analysis? Perhaps you made a mistake, said a careless word, or even messed up big time. Your self-examination spirals into a full-blown cross-examination. You keep revisiting what happened. Your mind circles around the event, fruitlessly trying to somehow make the outcome different so you don’t feel the embarrassment, shame, and regret.
The modern self-esteem movement has left us empty and self-focused. We exhaust our healthy introspection and pervert it into constant self-evaluation, wrong views of ourselves, self-accusation, and false guilt. Introspection was never meant to bear such weight.
Think Again offers real relief from the burden of introspection that so many of us carry each day. Pastor Jared Mellinger, who tends to overdose on self-analysis himself, shows us how the hope of the gospel can rescue us from the bad fruit of unsound introspection. Mellinger’s short, story-filled chapters help readers identify and turn away from unhealthy introspection.
There is an outward-focused God who delights to rescue an inward-focused people and lead them into a better way to live. When we truly understand it, we’ll see that the gospel actually sets us free from thinking about ourselves too much. We can seek after and pray for the peace and joy—the sanity—that comes from thinking about ourselves less often. Think Again includes practical instructions for self-examination, fighting false guilt, breaking free from hyper-introspection, and more. Ultimately, Think Again demonstrates that the solution to thinking too much about ourselves is to look to Christ, and it gives readers the tools to begin to turn from the mirror.


Jared Mellinger joined the Covenant Fellowship Church pastoral team in 2006, upon graduating from Pastors College of Sovereign Grace Churches. He became senior pastor in 2008. Jared graduated from Kutztown University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education. He enjoys reading, rollerblading, poetry, drinking coffee, building fires, and listening to Josh Garrels. Jared is the author of Think Again: Relief from the Burden of Introspection. He resides in Glen Mills, PA with his wife Meghan and their six children.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Joy of Letting Go

Did you know parents let go of their children every day, often in ways they don’t realize? Whether your kids are in kindergarten or college, learn how to prepare your hearts for your kids’ independence with Vicki Caruana’s The Joy of Letting Go. The 52 devotional readings within shine a light on all the times readers have loosened their grip on their children and encourages them to continue to let go in life-giving ways. Written by a parenting and education expert, The Joy of Letting Go will comfort and inspire parents in all seasons of parenting.


The Joy of Letting Go: Releasing Your Teen into Real Life in the Big World (David C. Cook, April 2017)
With readings of encouragement and inspirational quotes, this devotional helps parents prepare their hearts for their children’s independence, whether their kids are just starting kindergarten or graduating from college.
Parents let go of their children every day, even in ways they don’t realize. The 52 devotional readings within shine a light on all the times readers have loosened their grip on their children and encourages them to continue to let go in life-giving ways. Written by a parenting and education expert, The Joy of Letting Go will comfort and inspire parents in all seasons of parenting.


Vicki Caruana
Dr. Vicki Caruana is the author of 20 books and the blog Apples & Chalkdust—named after her bestselling book that has touched the lives of a million educators around the world. Caruana is one of four parenting experts on “Starting Points,” Focus on the Family’s parenting DVD series. Formerly a public school teacher and a homeschooling mom, Vicki is now an assistant professor of education at Mount Saint Mary College in New York. She lives with her station wagon loving husband, Chip, in Newburgh, New York and has two grown sons in Colorado Springs.
Find out more about Vicki at

Sunday, April 23, 2017

I've Been Redeemed

The next Sunday and Wednesday I teach, I don't care how much whining ensues, I'm getting some new videos so I don't have to go back to the archives. Let's hope that goes well!

I’ve Been Redeemed

I’ve been redeemed. (girls echo)
By the blood of the Lamb. (echo)
I’ve been redeemed, (echo)
By the blood of the Lamb.
I’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb,
Filled with the Holy Ghost I am!
All my sins are washed away, I’ve been redeemed.

Well, I went down, to the river to pray…
Felt so good that I stayed all day…

And that’s not all, there’s more beside…
I’ve been to the river and I’ve been baptized…
My God and I, we both agree…
That I love Him and He loves me…

The devil and I, we both agree…
That I hate him and he hates me…

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The anti-unicorn

When I actually got a chance to go to Starbucks on the way to see Peyton barrel race, one thing is for sure. There was no way I was getting one of those hyped up Unicorn Frappuccinos that have been flooding the internet this week. I love frappuccinos, but not mango laced with sour syrup non-sense. No, I got a caramel lite and apologize to no one. I was the rare creature that said, "NO!"

Relay for Life is coming up soon, and I had requests for more plaques to include in fundraisers. These are what I worked on Thursday night. These are my projects for the week.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Becky Wade’s ‘True to You’ Author Chat Party


Raise your hand if you're ready
for Becky Wade's new series! 

Celebrate the release of book one, True to You, with Becky and other readers on Facebook on May 4th during a fun author chat party at 8:00 PM EDT (that's 7:00 Central, 6:00 Mountain, & 5:00 Pacific)! Becky will be chatting about the book and answering your questions about the new series, and of course, there will be plenty of fun giveaways too!

Pre-order your copy of True to You so you're ready for a fun book discussion. Find out more about the book here.

Hope to see you on May 4 for Becky's


(Bethany House, May 2017)
It’s the exciting start of a brand-new series by a contemporary romance fan favorite!
After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.
Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.
The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Becky Wade


Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and moved to Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market, took time off to raise her children, then felt God nudging her to pursue contemporary Christian fiction. Becky is the Carol Award-, INSPY Award-, and International Reader’s Choice Award-winning author of the Porter Family Novels.
Find out more about Becky at

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tracie Miles’ ‘Unsinkable Faith’ Prize Pack Giveaway

Have negative thought patterns overtaken your life and shaken your faith? Learn how to anchor your heart in God despite what storms roll in in Tracie Miles’ new book, Unsinkable Faith. Each chapter explores Tracie’s and other women’s personal stories, showing how they rose above their circumstances by transforming and renewing their minds. Unsinkable Faith is a breath of fresh air for anyone longing for a heart full of joy, an unbreakable smile, and a new, more optimistic perspective on life.

Join Tracie and other readers on April 25th for a fun Facebook Live event and the Anchored in Faith Prize Pack Giveaway (details below)!


One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 25. The winner will be announced at the Unsinkable Faith Facebook Live event. RSVP for a chance to connect with Tracie and others searching for unsinkable faith, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 25th!

Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies to Transform the Way You Think, Feel, and Live (David C. Cook, April 2017)

For many people, remaining optimistic and feeling positive about themselves and their lives is a constant battle — especially when circumstances are difficult and life is hard.
For others, negativity is something that only sneaks up from time to time, yet still wreaks havoc in their hearts. Regardless of the root causes, once pessimistic thoughts permeate our minds, our feelings and emotions begin to control us instead of us controlling them. Eventually it doesn’t seem possible to stay positive, happy, and full of joy, and negative thought patterns shake our faith, causing us to sink emotionally, mentally, and spiritually over time. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Despite what storms roll in, hearts anchored in God don’t sink. When we change the way we think, we can change the way we feel and live, even if our circumstances remain the same. Intentionally embracing the opportunity to experience a transformed heart and a renewed mind opens the door for a changed life, because a positive mind will always lead to a more positive life.
In Unsinkable Faith, author and Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker Tracie Miles offers hope for women who struggle with negativity. Each chapter explores Tracie’s and other women’s personal stories, showing how they rose above their circumstances by transforming and renewing their minds. Unsinkable Faith is a breath of fresh air for anyone longing for a heart full of joy, an unbreakable smile, and a new, more optimistic perspective on life. This book will equip you to:
—Replace pessimism with positive thinking by becoming the captain of your thoughts;
—Learn how true joy and happiness are based on choice, not circumstances;
—Overcome unhealthy habits of negative thinking by intentionally implementing three easy mind-renewing steps;
—Stop feeling hopeless and pitiful, and start feeling hope-filled and powerful instead; and
—Discover that when you change the way you think, you change the way feel, and in turn you can change your life completely.
Tracie Miles


Tracie Miles is a national speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries and a bestselling author who’s spent the last twelve years inspiring women to become who God called them to be. She’s the author of Your Life Still Counts and Stressed-Less Living, and a contributor to Proverbs 31 Ministries daily devotions.
Find out more about Tracie at

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cynthia Ruchti’s ‘A Fragile Hope’ Blog Tour and Giveaway

When your life's work revolves around repairing other people’s marriages, what happens when your own marriage begins to fall apart? Find out what happens to Josiah Chamberlain in Cynthia Ruchti's new book, A Fragile Hope. Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?

Celebrate the release of A Fragile Hope by entering to win Cynthia's Sign of Hope Giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on May 3. The winner will be announced May 4 on the Litfuse blog.


(Abingdon Press, April 2017)
Hope grows when seeds are planted—even in the muddy middle of life.
Josiah Chamberlain’s life’s work revolves around repairing other people’s marriages. When his own is threatened by his wife’s unexplained distance, and then threatened further when she’s unexpectedly plunged into an unending fog, Josiah finds his expertise, quick wit and clever quips are no match for a relationship that is clearly broken.
Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?

Cynthia Ruchti


Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope. She’s the award-winning author of 17 books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. She serves as the Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers, where she helps retailers, libraries, and book clubs connect with the authors and books they love. She lives with her husband in Central Wisconsin.
Find out more about Cynthia at