Category Archives: Interviews

An Interview with Mike Berenstain of the Berenstain Bears

Q: How did the Berenstain Bears get their start?

Stan Berenstain and Jan Grant were both born in Philadelphia in 1923. These talented artists met in art school in 1941 and were married several years later. They began joint careers in art as a professional cartoonist team, creating for magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Colliers. But as time went on and they began their family, Jan and Stan became consumers of children’s books. Their interest piqued, they decided to try their hand at creating a children’s book of their own. Under the editorial and publishing guidance of Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), this first book—The Big Honey Hunt—was released in 1962 and success followed. As the husband and wife team, The Berenstains, they created about twenty books with Geisel, and went on to produce about two hundred more over the next forty plus years.

Q: How did you become involved in the family business?

Because of the huge success of these family-life themed books about a family of bears, Stan and Jan grew too busy to keep up with the demand for more and more titles. So in the late 1980s my parents put out a call for some assistance. I had always loved to draw and had gone to the same art school as my parents. I was working as a children’s author and illustrator at the time. So, when they began asking me for help, it seemed very natural for me to get involved. Having grown up with the Berenstain Bears I viewed them as a part of myself and I wanted to be involved with their ongoing artistic development.

Integrating my own work into the Berenstain Bears style was not without its challenges—in fact, it was hard. But as I gained experience, this father-mother-son partnership began to work. I learned more and more about illustrating and writing Berenstain Bears books until, to an outsider, our work couldn’t be told apart. We created dozens of books together until my father’s death in 2005. My mother and I continued to create new Berenstain Bears books, collaborating on the illustrations while I took on the writing. We worked together in this way until her death in 2012.

And the Berenstain Bears go on! I am still actively exploring Bear Country—a fictional but recognizable place where millions of children have laughed and learned and done a little growing up. It’s a good place to be.

Q: I understand you have a faith-based series of Berenstain Bears books with Zonderkidz. How did the Living Lights brand come about?

In 2004, after forty years of publishing with Random House, we made a move to a new publishing home at HarperCollins. Their expanded and imaginative new line of Berenstain Bears books was immediately successful and has grown by leaps and bounds ever since.

At about the same time we were moving from Random House to HarperCollins, my men’s group at church was reading the then recently published, A Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. I was aware that this spiritual blockbuster was published by the HarperCollins Zondervan division. I also knew their children’s subdivision, Zonderkidz, was a powerhouse in the industry. A cartoon lightbulb went off over my head. Clearly, a guiding hand directing me toward a purpose-driven goal—in this case, the creation of a series of Christian-themed Berenstain Bears books.

So, with my parent’s help, I developed the concept of Living Lights books. Everyone at Zondervan enthusiastically got on board and the first four titles were launched with great success in the fall of 2008. The line now has over seventy-five titles with many more in the pipeline and annual sales at 1.5 million copies and growing.

Q: Are there any fun facts about the Berenstain Bears or you and your family that you’d like to share?

This is, perhaps, a good point at which to clear up a confusion about our last name. No, it is not Berenstein, Bernstein, or Bearenstein. “Berenstain” is pronounced as it is spelled—Beh-ren-stane as in “coffee stain” or “ink stain” or “grape juice stain.”

Exactly how this spelling came about, we don’t really know. It’s been spelled that way ever since my great grandparents got off the boat in New York in the 1880s. Perhaps it was just a misprint by a weary immigration officer. Or maybe he was trying to phonetically spell “Bernstein” as pronounced with a heavily Ukrainian-tinged accent.

Another fact is that the Bear family is not just in print books. Over the last fifty years Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister, Honey, their friends and family in Bear Country have spread out into other media and forms: three television series, four stage shows, amusement park attractions, museum exhibits, websites, DVDs, apps, toys, games, puzzles, and juice boxes are just a few of the places you can find the Bears visiting.

Thank you for answering some questions about the Berenstain Bears, Mike! God bless you!

I feel infinitely blessed to have been a part of this—the Berenstain Bears adventures—and very thankful to have been used for the Lord’s work in this way. In the words of the beautiful hymn, “So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.”

I also very much appreciate the role my friends at Family Christian have played in doing this work. Our partnership in making the Berenstain Bears Living Lights series available to all our readers in the Christian community has been an essential part of our mission to help families in raising happy, healthy, and faithful children. Thank you very much and God bless you.

An Interview With Karen Stubbs of Birds on a Wire

Karen Stubbs is the founder and leader of Birds on a Wire, a ministry designed to equip moms through truth, encouragement and community. Recently, we were able to have a conversation to learn more about her, her ministry and her passion for helping mothers. Find the interview below.

Karen Stubbs

Pictured from Left to Right: Curt Andrews (Family Christian CMO), Karen Stubbs, and Ted Weyn (Family Christian SVP of Strategy & Development)

Family Christian: Who is Karen Stubbs? Did you always want to become an author?

Karen Stubbs: I am a wife to Greg Stubbs and a mother of four children, Kelsey, Emily, Taylor and Abby. I am also a grandmother to two beautiful grandchildren, Evie and Chapman. I live in Cumming, Ga. Being an author was never on my radar. I wrote a lot in college, and I love writing, but after I had my children, I stopped writing for a long time because I didn’t have time.

FC: What is Birds on a Wire? And where does the name come from?

KS: Birds on a Wire (BOAW) is a nonprofit ministry that focuses on equipping and encouraging moms. Being a mom is a hard job, and as I looked around, I didn’t see anyone truly pouring into moms to help them in their journey, so I thought I would start a ministry and do just that: to walk alongside a mom and encourage them.

The story behind the name is sweet to me. BOAW started off with eight moms in my basement as a small group. In the early years, it was not an organized ministry—we didn’t even have a name. There was an artist, Jenifer Tanskley, that attended and at Christmas the group gave me a painting by Jenifer. The painting was the picture of birds sitting on a wire. I instantly fell in love with the painting and hung it in my bedroom. I kept looking at the painting and one day I called Jenifer and I asked her, “What was your inspiration for this painting?” She said it was Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they?”

Oh my! It hit me like a ton of bricks. We as moms worry and are anxious with our children. We worry if we are going to mess up our child or not be a good mom. But, God has our children, and God has us. We don’t need to worry about anything—it is all in His very capable hands. So, I gathered a bunch of creative moms together, brought the painting in and read Matthew 6:26.

I said, “Ladies, we need to name this ministry today, and I want it based off this picture and Matthew 6:26, what do you think?” They all started talking it through and one sweet mom, Carla Grogan, said, “We are like those birds, and Jesus is our wire. When the wind blows we just have to hang on for dear life and trust in Him. We really are like a bunch of birds on a wire.” I thought to myself, that’s it! Birds on a Wire.

FC: How did God work in your life while writing and/or since the completion of writing Moments with God for Moms?

KS: God started working on my heart before I even wrote the devotional. My eyes were open to how it was a real struggle for most women to carve out time for a quiet time after they became a mom. Once I decided to write the book, I started “listening” to what moms were talking about in the grocery store, Starbucks line, at my children’s ballgames or wherever I was and started finding Scripture that specifically addressed the struggles of a mom. Every devotion in the book is taken from a mom’s point of view. I tried to make it as practical and “real” as I could because I believe God is in the details, even in our role of a mom.

FC: What do you hope mothers will take away from reading the devotional?

KS: I pray that every mom will be drawn closer to God in reading this book. My desire is that moms across the world will realize God is in this journey with them and He is a loving Heavenly Father.

FC: Do you plan/desire to publish more books in the future?

KS: I am always thinking about “next” topics to explore that would help a mom in her journey. Books are a way to connect with moms, so yes I am planning on writing more books.

FC: How does Birds on a Wire come alongside moms to give them practical advice (in addition to the devotional)?

KS: BOAW has an entire library of resources that help moms. I have six DVD curriculums and workbooks that moms can go through either in a group setting or by themselves. The DVDs are a video of me teaching on a topic such as Discipline, Time Management, Boundaries, Contentment, Comparison, Fear, Control and many other topics, and each of these will help a mom and give them practical advice on raising children. I also wrote a book called Letters to Moms, and this book was birthed out of that basement group in the early years; after certain nights, I would write the moms an email on certain topics, hence the name of the book.

FC: Family Christian and Birds on a Wire have recently partnered to provide a Mother’s Day gift bundle, including your devotional, encouragement cards, a gift bag, a bookmark with a 60-day free trial to iDisciple and a free line of personalization. Why is the gift set so valuable to give to mothers on Mother’s Day?

KS: I believe this bundle is the complete package for any and every mom. The devotional is a daily encouragement and a way to connect to God, the encouragement cards are easy to use and so handy because you can place them wherever you are, at the sink doing dishes, your desk at work, in the car or by your bed, these cards are like a mini shot in the arm for moms, and remind them they are not in this job alone and the 60-day free trial with iDisciple gives moms a whole library of great authors, music and books that they may not have exposure to. Whether a mom is just getting started with a newborn or she is a grandmother of 10 grandchildren, I think this Mother’s Day gift is for everyone and will be a huge blessing for any mom.

Laughing In The Dark: Our Exclusive Interview with Chonda Pierce

Chonda Pierce is a platinum-selling, Emmy-nominated Christian comedian, who has been making audiences laugh for more than two decades now.

Chonda posing with a flower in her mouth.

Last year, she gave fans a more intimate look at her life in the form of a documentary style film. In addition to her normal stand-up performances, she showed the audience a behind the scenes look into her life, which showcased her struggles with loss, separation, tragedy and depression and finds hope and life through her relationship with God and her fans.

Laughing in the Dark comes out on DVD today, April 5th, and to celebrate the release, we spoke with Chonda to discover how she got into comedy, life as a Christian comedian and more.

Family Christian: How did you get started doing comedy?

Chonda Pierce: I was cast in a show at a theme park called, Opryland USA. Our show, Country Music USA told the history of Country music by impersonating various country stars. I was given the role of Minnie Pearl – mainly to exclude me from the big dance number that followed. Since I was taught as a child that dancing would send you to “hell in a hand basket!”

FC: What comedians inspired you early on in your comedy career? What comedians these days inspire you?

CP: Sarah Cannon (aka Minnie Pearl), Carol Brunette, Red Skelton and Lucille Ball

FC: Was comedy your dream job growing up, or did you have another career path in mind?

CP: I was always interested in the performing arts. Even as a young child I loved the theater and filled my days with community theater, high school productions, college theater, etc.

FC: When did faith begin to play a role in your life? Were you always a “Christian” comedian or did your faith get put into your acts later on?

CP: My faith is never a part of my “act.’ My faith is a part of my life – my life with Christ will always bleed over into EVERYTHING I do.

FC: Some Christian rappers have said they don’t like being known as “Christian rappers”, but rather they are just rappers who also are Christians. How do you feel being labeled a Christian comedian?

CP: Sadly, the secular world deems the “Christian” artist as soft, less than or not as interesting. It’s a silly judgment… But it exists. Looking back – I see now what a distraction calling myself a Christian comedian can be when trying to legitimize my talent as a comic. But, frankly, I was so excited to not be going to hell that I wore the title proudly!! HA!

FC: How has God spoken to you and worked in your life in the areas of darkness and depression? And how have you been able to use this to be an encouragement to others?

CP: Talking honestly about depression has become somewhat of a calling. I wrote a book called Laughing in the Dark. You should read it sometime! HA!! HA!!

FC: Since creating the film, Laughing in the Dark, has God worked in any new ways?

CP: God has certainly surprised me with the overwhelming success of this movie. I don’t feel like anyone “created” anything… I simply lived my life and someone filmed it. GOD did ALL the rest.

FC: Do you have a specific verse or verses that you lean on during troubled times?

CP: Favorite scriptures vary with moods, circumstances, etc. Just like favorite songs! But my overall LIFE verse is: John 6:63 “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing…” Puts EVERYTHING in perspective doesn’t it!?

FC: Do you hope to make more films like this in the future? If so, can you share some of your plans?

CP: NO! A documentary of the most trying times of my life??? No, thank you!!! I’d love to do some fun movies, some serious acting. But, I’m ready to take a break from tragedy!!

We can’t thank Chonda enough for taking the time to answer our questions.

Check out Laughing in the Dark today!

An Interview with Glenys Nellist

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Glenys Nellist, author of Love Letters from God, Little Love Letters from God, and Snuggle Time Prayers. We learned what an average day for her looks like, where she draws her inspiration from and more.

She also discussed how adults complicate salvation and gave us insight into how she simplifies this idea for children by offering them an invitation to “join Jesus’ team” by way of a small postcard found at the end of the each book.

Check out the full interview below:

Q & A with Logan Wolfram

FC: Your life has taken you from wife, to mom, to blogger, to CEO and Host of Allume and now to author! What has that journey been like for you?

LW: Um….pretty nuts actually. If ever there was a person qualified to write about following God curiously into the unknown it’s me! And funny enough I’ve felt completely UNqualified for pretty much all of the tasks…but God, He makes his own set of qualifications for where He takes us and the first one is just “Will you follow me into the unknown?”

But also, to really answer the question practically, it has taken a lot of shifting within my family and friends to accommodate the changes in pace. I’ve had to ask for lots of grace as I learn to balance new responsibilities that pile on top of the ones that were already there. Some days it means being ok with chicken nuggets for dinner and falling asleep putting my kids to bed at 8pm too. Honestly I’m just trying to steward the moments and the opportunities well so that when I stand before the Lord in the end he says “well done my good and faithful servant.”

FC: Curious Faith. That is a curious title! How did you land on that for a title and theme of your book?

LW: I talk about it in the book, but mostly the thought of curiosity as a theme of faith occurred to me when I was watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory one night with my kids. I was looking at these kids in Wonka’s factory and the thought struck me that in these 5 children I saw pieces of myself. Throughout the movie they were disqualified from the tour because of pride, selfishness, gluttony, impatience, etc, and the kid who won the whole kit and caboodle in the end was the one who was humble and curious and trusted the vision of the creator. Once that thought occurred to me, I realized that it totally applies to the Kingdom of God. God calls us to have a childlike faith, and by my estimation, that lands us squarely in the middle of a curious one too!

FC: Writing a book like this often causes the author to deeply examine their own faith/life. What surprising thing(s) did you learn about yourself while writing Curious Faith?

LW: Oh mercy! SO MUCH! Writing a book is so hard because I think throughout it’s such a clarifying process too. Not only do I have to wrestle with the Lord on things in my own life, but I have to do it to such a point that I can turn around and sufficiently explain the process and lessons to others. I have to REALLY REALLY learn what I’m talking about, otherwise I just won’t make sense. And also, after writing the book when life just started to get overwhelming, I’ll be honest and say pieces of me started to lose my own curious faith (which feels practically blasphemous to say that I lost my own curiosity after writing about it), but I went back and reread my own book and God used the testimony of my own words to reignite my own faith. It’s sort of like you write all this and then the enemy comes after you and the Lord allows it as if to say, “Did you mean what you wrote?” So the rubber of faith means the road of living and in the end what I can tell you is that “YES…I meant every word and still do!”

FC: You say you want to help readers to “rescue your now”? What exactly does that look like?

LW: It means that there is manna for today. There are blessings of God to uncover NOW. That even in the midst of not knowing where we are going, we can still be curious about what God has for us right where we are. In the book I wrote it this way and I think it sums it up, but “The certainty of our faith isn’t found in where we are going, but in the ONE we are following.” When you know WHOM you’re following, your now…your today…and even your unknown tomorrow can be rescued and given new hope!

FC: If there is one idea you really want your readers to grasp from reading Curious Faith, what would that be?

LW: Ack…that’s so hard! I wrote nearly 250 pages and I hope lots of it sticks! But the biggest thing I hope is that people fall in love with the Lord all over again. I pray that they remember who He is to us and who we are to Him…because it’s from that place of security that we walk in the freedom of a curious and open-handed life. When we remember that, and we apply it throughout different circumstances, we really do rediscover hope and possibility.

FC: Speaking of reading, we would love to know what you are reading right now?

LW: Right now I’m actually doing the Open Your Bible study from my sweet friends Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams of SheReadsTruth and I love it! Also as an author I get lots of books in the mail so I have a big stack that I’m desperate to get through faster than I have time to do! I got a book in the mail recently called Praying Upside Down by Kelly O’Dell Stanley and honestly I have a huge heart for prayer and was intrigued by it. It’s really good so far!

FC: So…..Curious Faith is releasing on 3/1. Do you have any plans after that? Another book in the making? Big family vacation?

LW: Oh heavens I actually hope to sit still for a little bit. I’ll be returning from CHINA on the night of March 1 because my little brother is getting married on Feb 27th! He has been living and working in China for a few years and is marrying a precious gal who is Chinese, so we are loading up the whole crew and heading to China. I’m contracted for another book but plan to take a good while before diving into that. I always want to write out of the overflow, so I plan to be intentional about taking time to fill back up after all this book fun too!

FC: We are so excited about Curious Faith and appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today. In closing, we’d love to ask how we can be praying for you and your family?

LW: You know, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the enemy doesn’t like when people follow hard after God. And if you’re following hard and being super public and inviting others to do the same, it just about puts a target on your back. When I feel the fiery arrows I figure I must be doing something right for the Kingdom of Heaven, but it can sure make the day to day messier and harder. And my family has seen that increase significantly since I started writing this book. And the closer it has gotten to launching, the more complicated things all around us have gotten too. Mostly I’d love to ask you to pray that our faith would continue to increase, that our family would grow stronger through the things the Lord asks us to walk into together, and that Jesus would be magnified even in our messy moments! And for stewardship of this all. It is my heart’s desire that I steward this opportunity in such a way that I honor the Lord and that the Kingdom expands because of my obedience in doing the small part God is asking me to do.

Curious Faith by Logan Wolfram

We’re all born driven to explore, marvel, and experience the adventure of life. But as responsibilities pile up, we slowly exchange that unbridled curiosity for a sense of control and routine. Wolfram shows you how to rescue your now by exploring what is possible with a God who is unlimited, unpredictable, and ever-loving!

Family Christian is very excited about Logan’s new book.  We had the opportunity to catch up with Logan and get this little video to share with you.

Logan Wolfram would give you full access to her pantry if you lived next door. She is a plate-juggling mom and interior decorator turned writer, speaker, and host of the Allume Conference. She is a passionate leader who desires to see women live fully in Christ.

We first heard of Logan as a blogger.  She had a great blog Curious Faith by Logan Wolframwhich eventually led to her starting a Christian blogging conference called Allume.  It has been a joy to watch her journey from blogger to speaker to author.  She has an authentic voice and when you meet her, it is like having coffee with your best friend.

We are proud to be selling Curious Faith and excited to give you chance to win a copy!  We are giving away 2 copies of her book Curious Faith and 2 t-shirts!  Each winner will win 1 book and 1 shirt (randomly selected size).

Enter below for your chance to win.

Q&A with Becky Thompson

We had the awesome pleasure of interviewing Becky Thompson, author of the upcoming book,Hope Unfolding Hope Unfolding. Below she talks about her initial success as a blogger, dealing with loneliness as a mother, and the book writing process.

1. Becky, your hugely successful blog, Scissortail SILK, began as a fashion blog. How did it transform into a place to share your heart with other young mothers?

I began my blog, Scissortail SILK, because a boutique owner asked if I was fashion blogger. It’s an interesting story that I actually share in Hope Unfolding, but my intentions were to simply post fun outfits and glimpses into my life. As I began to write, I quickly realized that I didn’t just want to tell women how to feel good by wearing certain clothes. I wanted each reader to know that her worth is found in Jesus. I wanted her to be confident of God’s love for her. I suppose the most authentic story we have to tell is the one that always rises to the top. For me, encouraging other women and reminding them of God’s love is the truest message I have to share.

2. Your blog receives more than a million page views each month. In the beginning, did the overwhelming response from women surprise you?

Six months after I first began the blog I wrote a post late one night about the importance of remembering to be a wife after becoming a momma. When I woke up the next morning, I was shocked by the response. The post was shared over 700,000 times, and my readership grew from one thousand monthly page visitors to one million monthly page visitors. In the months following, I received thousands of messages from women across the world who had been encouraged by what they had read. It was a lot to process as these women trusted me with their stories and shared their hearts with me. But I knew that if I always pointed them back to Jesus, if I always reminded them of God’s goodness and His grace, I would always have the answer that they needed to hear the most.

3. For those of us who aren’t in the daily trenches of motherhood, what are some of the greatest unexpressed needs among mothers today?

More than anything, I think moms need to know that they are not alone. They need support, but they also need to feel seen in the stories of their own lives. Beyond this, they need to know that their best is good enough and that God doesn’t expect perfection from them.

4. Loneliness is one of the main topics discussed in Hope Unfolding. With women connecting online in ways previous generations were never able to, what role do you think social media has played in either increasing or decreasing isolation for young mothers?

I think that social media has created a way for mothers to be connected unlike any other generation before us. But while we live so much of our lives online, with access to millions of other moms, I don’t think that there has ever been a time when mothers have felt more alone. I fear we lack authentic relationships and community as we exchange them for digital friendships. We know facts about one another, which makes us feel like we are known, but we don’t get to connect deeply by sharing the realest places of our hearts. This is why I am so passionate about the online community of Scissortail SILK. As mothers across the world reach out for friendship and support from other moms, it is my hope that Scissortail SILK exists as a grace-filled place where women can encourage one another and say, “You’re not alone. You’re welcome here. I have been there too! Let’s talk about what really matters.”

5. The notion of grace seems to saturate many of today’s Christian messages. Why is a true understanding of grace so important to a mother’s emotional and spiritual well-being?

Mom-guilt is a real thing. We are constantly replaying the moments in our day where we feel like we have been less than perfect. We wonder if we should have handled certain things differently. We fear we are ruining our children with our own inadequacies. The truth is none of us are perfect. That’s why we need Jesus and His grace. He is forever filling in all of our gaps and the places where we come up short. And this includes our mothering. When we realize that it is okay to not be perfect, we find freedom from our own self-imposed expectations, and this brings a new sense of hope to a woman’s heart.

6. What kind of response have you had from your readers as you move from the world of blogging into the publishing arena?

I truly think of my readers as my friends, and as I have shared news with them about different parts of the publishing process, we have all been excited together. Many of my readers have said that they are excited to share this book with other moms not just because they are excited about the words inside, but because they feel as though they are offering other women an opportunity to join us in the adventure of grace-filled motherhood! We are looking forward to sharing our community in book form!

7. What surprised you most about writing this book? What did God reveal to you during this experience?

As I was writing Hope Unfolding, I considered how women outside of motherhood would also relate to many of the grace-filled truths found within the text. The truth is the issues that we face as mothers aren’t just as a result of having children. They are often lies that we have believed or fears that have taunted us long before motherhood held a magnifying glass over them. The truth is we all need to find grace for who we are and hope in Jesus. That is the promise of Hope Unfolding. It could be for anyone.

8. What is your greatest hope for those who will read Hope Unfolding?

More than anything, I want those who read Hope Unfolding to encounter Jesus. I want them to find confidence in the truth that He loves them, is continuously with them, and wants them to live in freedom. I want them to experience the promises of God’s love, and as they tune their hearts to His voice, I hope that they discover the one true Hope who will sustain their hearts.

Learn more about Hope Unfolding on our website.

Interview with Alex Kendrick & Stephen Kendrick

Below is an interview with Stephen and Alex Kendrick regarding their recent book, The Battle Plan for Prayer, which was written as a supplement to the hit movie, War Room.

What is the intent of the new book?

The Battle Plan for Prayer is meant to inspire, engage, and call the reader to an active, strategic, and passionate prayer life. We urgently need the church to pray in unity in these crucial days. (Alex)

To inspire people with the importance of being devoted to prayer, equip them with Biblically training to help them pray more faithfully and effectively, and call them to unite with other believers and ask God to move mightily in our generations and bring healing to our families, churches, and nation. (Stephen)

What is the single most important reason to have a prayer strategy?

The book of James tells us that the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much”. It’s our daily connection and communication with Almighty God. We would say that it’s a lifeline to the Father in our spiritual life.

You can’t hit what you are not aiming at! When we pray Biblically, strategically, and specifically, we position ourselves to maximize the impact of our praying and to more readily see God glorified through the answers. (Stephen)

How does the book teach preparing a prayer battle plan?

The book will walk the reader through “boot camp” for an understanding of what prayer is, and how we are meant to use it. Then, we teach applications of biblical prayer with a focus on praying strategically in our various areas of life. In this manner, we learn to “fight” in prayer. (Alex)

We inspire people with the stories and scriptures of answered prayer, train them in the fundamental locks and keys of effective prayer, then we give them 6 different tools they can use to help them pray. (Stephen)

What scripture was the catalyst for the project?

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus teaches us to go into our inner room and to pray to our Father in secret. Then, God rewards what is done in secret. So He desires for us to draw closer to Him in our secret place, and not just when people are watching us. (Alex)

Matthew 6:6, James 5:16, Colossians 4:2, 1 Timothy 2:1-5 (Stephen)

How has creating War Room the movie and the book projects impacted your prayer life?

The more we study prayer, the more we are driven to make it a larger part of our life. It’s meant to go along with the Word of God in maturing us in our faith and making us bold in our calling. Both Stephen and myself have increased our time with the Lord in prayer. We’re also helping our families to do the same thing. We want to be warriors ready for His orders, not lukewarm believers that spend most of our time on the bench. (Alex)

I have learned much more about prayer and have truly been inspired and challenged working on this movie and book. It has caused me to pray more joyfully, specifically, and with a greater faith – trusting that my Heavenly Father will answer in His timing.

We serve a mighty God who answers prayer. He is not unaware, unable, uncaring, unwilling, or unlikely to answer the prayers of His children.

Writing The Battle Plan for Prayer has caused me to pray with greater freedom and confidence in the Lord.

Ephesians 3:12 – In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (NIV) (Stephen)

2016BookOfYear

Q & A with Jim Gash – Author of Divine Collision

Jim, your new book, Divine Collision, recounts an unforgettable legal case you worked on in Uganda. This case changed a boy’s life, your family’s future, and helped improve the criminal justice system in Uganda. Has your life always been this exciting?
Divine Collision

I have been blessed at many stages of my career with challenging and rewarding opportunities to travel and to serve. I clerked for a prominent federal court of appeals judge in Houston, Texas after graduating from law school, worked on cases pending before the US Supreme Court and other courts around the country for one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the world, and taught three different semesters at Pepperdine’s London campus as part of my full-time law teaching job in Malibu, California. But none of these experiences can compare with the opportunity I have been given to partner with the leaders of Uganda to assist them in delivering justice to their people.

Bob Goff, an attorney, humanitarian, and author, is the founder of Restore International. How did Bob’s speech at a Christian Legal Society conference set you on a collision course for Uganda?

Bob is the craziest and most inspiring person I have ever met – he would have to be in order to shake me out of my comfort zone. In fact, Bob absolutely destroyed the life I once knew and I tell him that regularly. In 2007, he came to Pepperdine to speak to our students about using their God-given abilities and legal training to serve those around the world. A few weeks later, two of our students hopped on a plane to Uganda with Bob and came back with a plan for our students to serve as interns for Ugandan judges. The frenetic pace of my job as dean of students and professor at Pepperdine, and my commitment to my young family, however, had convinced me that I had no room in my life to join my students in these efforts. I was content in my role was as cheerleader – encouraging others to go and do. But in 2009, God used Bob’s “Love Does” speech at the CLS National Conference to jolt me from my complacency, and knock me to my knees. It was time for me to say yes to the call I now believe I had been avoiding my entire life to join in the ongoing efforts in Uganda. A couple months later, I met Henry in a juvenile prison.

You write that you went to Uganda hoping to “throw some starfish back in the ocean.” Tell us what you hoped to accomplish.

The team we assembled to go to Uganda included two other Pepperdine Law graduates – Ray Boucher and David Barrett. On a layover in Nairobi, Kenya, David told me “The Starfish Story” for the first time. Distilled, the story involves a young boy throwing starfish stranded on the shore back into the ocean one at a time so they can thrive and flourish. An older man heckles the boy, telling him there are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see – “how can you possibly make a difference.” The boy picks up a starfish, throws it back into the ocean, and defiantly says, “I made a difference for that one, didn’t I.” That story penetrated me to the core. The problems facing Africa were so overwhelming, I had previously questioned how we could make any sort of measurable impact. But after hearing that story, I had my answer – one starfish at a time. When we landed in Uganda, I went looking for my starfish. And after I met Henry and his younger brother Joseph, I was determined to do whatever I could to throw them back into the ocean so they could thrive and flourish once again.  It was only later than I fully understood The Starfish Story.

One of the first boys you met when your team reached the juvenile detention facility was Henry. Tell us your first impression of him, and how he came to be accused of two murders.

Before heading out to the Masindi Remand Home, our team met with the local magistrate judge at the courthouse. There, he provided us with a list of the twenty-one inmates and their charges. I immediately noticed that one boy named Henry had been charged with two separate counts of murder – one in 2008 and the other in 2009. I made a mental note to avoid this kid. We hadn’t thought to bring interpreters with us, foolishly assuming that everyone spoke English. When we arrived at the Remand Home, we discovered that only two of the juveniles spoke English. They would have to be our interpreters. The warden introduced them to us as brothers – Henry and Joseph. Soon thereafter, the boy I had planned to avoid became my interpreter. Over the course of that day, I learned that Henry and Joseph, along with their father, had been charged with murder eighteen months earlier in conjunction with the mob killing of a herdsman who had stolen their family’s entire savings. I also learned that undisputed evidence showed that Henry and Joseph had been in school at the time of the killing. During Henry’s time at the Remand Home, he had risen to the position of Katikkiro in the internal prison government, which meant he was prime minister of the prison. It was in that capacity that he was charged with a second murder, alongside a prison official who served as the matron over the juveniles, in conjunction with the death of another prisoner who died while attempting to escape, just one month before I arrived.

Now that Henry is free, and in medical school as he always dreamed, how do you view that story of the boy tossing back the starfish?

For much of my life, I was the man in The Starfish Story – perplexed and crippled into inaction when faced with the enormity of the problems around the world, not doing anything because I couldn’t do everything. When I finally surrendered control of my life and took a step in faith, I began to identify with the boy – looking to throw the starfish one at a time back in the safety and security of the ocean. But now, as I look back on this story and reflect more carefully upon its characters, I realize that I am not the boy in the story after all. I am the starfish. I was stranded on the shores of inaction, baking in the sun of indifference – just waiting for someone to throw me into the ocean of obedience and service. Come on in – the water is great!

Q&A with Steven Furtick

In our interview with Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina, we talked about his upcoming book (Un)Qualified—asking why he chose to write on this topic now and how it is possible that he feels unqualified with the success he has had.

(Un)Qualified

1. You lead one of the country’s fastest growing churches with more than 20,000 attendees and you’ve now written your fourth book. Why are you addressing the topic of feeling unqualified now?

I’m writing on this now because it doesn’t matter if you’re preaching to a group of 10 sweaty middle schoolers at a youth group lock-in or if you’re preaching to an arena of people at a church leadership conference – the feeling of being unqualified and inadequate is something you can’t ever really outrun. At one point or another, we all feel ridiculously unqualified for what God has called us to do. That‘s okay. Actually, to be used by God, it’s essential. God loves to work with unqualified people.

2. Why is it that we often misunderstand what it means to be qualified?

I think it goes back to our earliest form of qualification – grade school. Pass, fail. A-plus, C-minus, F. These letters mean something to us. They were our first measurement of success, and this whole business of judging and assessing and qualifying is deeply ingrained in our culture and psyche. We constantly analyze and summarize each other. We develop our own secret, subjective ways of determining whether people measure up, and we do the same to ourselves. The problem is we will never be perfect enough or fail proof enough to be at peace with ourselves on this basis of qualification alone.

3. You preach every week in front of large crowds, how is it possible that you question your ability to fulfill your calling?

I question it because I know me. I think we all secretly fight feelings of inadequacy, insufficiency, and incompetence. We fear we are not enough – whatever that means in our particular situations. I heard once that most people, particularly men, go through life wondering how long it will be before everyone realizes they’re a fraud. Not in the sense that they’re insincere, but just that they have no idea what they’re doing. I relate to that more than I can explain.

4. You make the statement,  “God can’t bless who you pretend to be.” What do you mean by that?

It was a thought that hit me while I was preparing a series of sermons on Jacob. I mean, Jacob was a con, a liar and a manipulator – you know, the model citizen for Sunday school stories – and yet God chose him to be one of the pillars of our faith and one of the fathers of the nation of Israel. He was simultaneously one of the most important figures in scripture and one of the most screwed up.

I was reading the scene in the Bible where Jacob dressed up like his brother Esau to get blessed by his father Isaac. And it worked. Kind of. He spent the next twenty-one years on the run – from his family, his homeland, and ultimately, himself.

It wasn’t until Jacob admitted his true identity while wrestling at the Jabbok that God was able to bless Jacob the way he wanted to. And that’s when God changed his name, on the basis of his true identity, not his persona or construct.

And as I’m sitting there studying this, I realized that we’re all like Jacob. We find ourselves pretending to be someone we’re not. We’re thinking if we manipulate our image just right, it will bring the accomplishments or acceptance we’re so desperate to receive. We think our weaknesses are the problem and faking it till we make it is the answer. But God sees it so differently. He longs to bless us. The real us, with all our ups and downs. The version of us that limps and loses, but refuses to lie about it. Once we come to him in that way, His truth begins to set us free to become who we really are.

5. You ask readers to fill in the blank to the statement “I am ­____. What word or phrase do you use to fill in that blank and why?

Oh man. It depends on the day or even the minute, honestly. I know the answer I’m supposed to say is “I am chosen” or “I am loved” or something super pastoral, but the reality is I’m schizophrenic when it comes to the word I fill in the blank with. The words I find myself saying cover the whole spectrum too: I am unqualified. I am stupid. I am strong. I am driven. Screwed up. Loyal. Stuck. Hurting. Overwhelmed. Blessed. Capable. Disappointed. Hopeful. Jaded. Content. So many of my words circle around my weaknesses, but at the same time, I know God has equipped me, and remembering that helps shift my thinking. Making that choice, moment to moment, is what the book is all about!

6. What is your recommendation for someone who is struggling to come to terms with his or her weaknesses and ability to change?

The more I study the Bible the more convinced I am that we need a fuller understanding – not just of God – but of ourselves. And we need to give less weight to our opinion of our weaknesses and problems. Don’t give up. Keep showing up. I truly believe the key to change isn’t always doing something new, but often in doing the right things over and over again. Change isn’t something that happens overnight. There are the exceptions, sure. But for the rest of us, change is a long, messy process. But if we don’t show up every day, and decide that today is going to build on the success we had yesterday, and so on, then our change will never last. And at the same time, when it comes to maturing us, God has His own timetable, and the Christian walk isn’t really about a finish line. Faith can’t be reduced to a goal or an achievement. It‘s an ongoing relationship with Jesus. It‘s a progression of growing and changing, of embracing and replacing, of listening to God‘s voice and living out who he says we are. It‘s a process, and it will last the rest of our lives.

7. What patterns do you see in the Bible of God using those who don’t outwardly appear to be qualified for what he has asked them to do?

Well, just think about how many of our Bible heroes were tortured souls with marked pasts that would label them unqualified by our standards. You’ve probably heard a version of this before: Noah was a drunk. Moses was a coward and a murderer. David was an adulterer. Paul was chief proponent in the killing of many Christians. Yet, these are some of the men God used. Don’t even get me started on Rahab!

Look, God has a habit of picking people who have been passed over. It’s just proof that God’s qualification system is totally different than ours. The very people we’re so quick to discount and disqualify are often the earthen vessels in whom God pours the greatest measure of His glory.

You can order your copy of (Un)Qualified from Family Christian today!