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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • Jefferson Bethke - Loving Jesus More Than Anything Else

    Posted on September 23, 2013 by Family Christian


    Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a year). The message blew up on social-media, triggering an avalanche of responses running the gamut from encouraged to enraged.

    Jefferson is quick to acknowledge that he’s not a pastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out for a life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, he discovered the real Jesus, who beckoned him beyond the props of false religion.

    I was able to talk with Jeff over the phone about his life. How he grew up. We chatted about what shaped him. Where the idea for the video came from and his plans for the future.

    John: Jeff, I'm wondering if you could give us a little bit of background information. Where did you come from and how did you get into the place you are now?

    Jefferson: I grew up in Tacoma, Washington—spent pretty much my whole life in the Northwest. I grew up in a really tough broken home with a single mom and welfare, stuff like that. Religion was something that we still did, or saw, as the cultural default. So we would go to church sometimes. I knew the songs, but I wasn't myself necessarily a church kid. That took me all the way to high school where I was defined by what I didn't do: I didn't smoke, I didn't drink, so you know, I was that “I'm better than you” kid. This was my identity.

    In my junior and senior years, the world became a lot more attractive than white-knuckling obedience. So I threw in the towel on that, went down more of a prodigal son path. That took me to college where everything just crashed down a couple of years in. I soon realized that lifestyle wasn't fruitful either. My girlfriend broke up with me, I got kicked off the baseball team, and I got put on academic probation all in one week. That woke me up and made me say, "Hey, what am I doing with my life?" That's when I opened the Scriptures and read about Jesus for the first time, the actual real Jesus. The man who was compassionate but did some interesting things, so you couldn't really put Him in a box. I remember just saying then, "That's a guy worth following."

    It wasn't an overnight process. I remember six months after reading and praying and loving this Jesus guy, I looked back and said, "Well, I guess that makes me a Christian now because I follow Him, I love Him, I read the Word and want to be a disciple." That was about five years ago.

    Fast forward to senior year of college. I was going to a non-Christian, really secular, liberal arts small school outside of Portland. It's very similar to Reed College in its atmosphere. I was just looking for opportunities to talk about Jesus. I remember posting a Bible study and inviting anyone, but only two people would show up. There was open mic on campus where once a month, any student can sing, dance, whatever, stuff like that. So I said, "Well, a couple of hundred people show up to that and there's only 1,500 students in the school, so it seems like a great opportunity."

    That's when I initially wrote the poem called "Sexual Healing." And then I wrote "Why I Hate Religion" for that open mic. I never performed the "Why I Hate Religion" because I graduated before the next open mic, but that's where that came from. That's the heart it came from: me wanting to share with a very post-modern college demographic—just a few hundred students. Then my buddy who was a videographer heard about one of them and was like, “Hey, let's put this on YouTube." We had no rhyme or reason, just maybe our moms or our friends would see it. We put up "Why I Hate Religion" and it got a little crazy overnight. That has definitely put me where I am today, in the sense of what I do now. I get to just be creative on a daily basis. I get to write stuff. I get to do videos, which is really fun. I get to study God's Word.

    John: Jefferson, were you making videos before "Why I Hate Religion"?

    Jefferson: No, not really. The "Sexual Healing" poem we did one video. We put that online, and that did pretty well. It got like 100,000 views, I think, in 6 or 7 months. We were kind of like, "Oh, we might as well make another one" but this time I had the platform to put it out on social media. So we decided to do the "Why I Hate Religion," the second video I ever uploaded to YouTube.

    John: Why do you think the "Why I Hate Religion" video struck such a chord with culture today?

    Jefferson: I think there are a million reasons, honestly. I think one of the main reasons is that religion means a million different things to a million different people. "Religion" is a very, very beautiful biblical word to people. And then at least in my context—a little more Seattle or Oregon context—that word becomes synonymous with "that stuff." It's a caricature, this idea that you have to earn God by what you do, and hate gays, and can't drink beer. And so that was part of it I think. I think putting "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus" in a title can get a little crazy when everyone has their own definition of that, right?

    We're in the middle of a cultural shift in America. I really do believe that. I think when I was a kid, America was predominantly Christian in thought. Now of course I'm not saying Christian nation, none of that stuff. I'm saying there was a worldview, when I was growing up, of Christian principles, Christian values. Now I would argue that America is post-Christian. Christianity no longer has power, authority, or influences our values, culture or society.

    Being in the middle of that shift, I think a lot of my generation resonated with that video because I think it was trying to pull from one shift to the other and say, "Hey, this is where we're at. This is what Jesus really says." Looking back and having thought about it for almost two years now, I landed in the middle of that zeitgeist of the cultural shift.

    John: Were you expecting the amount of criticism that you received?

    Jefferson: No, no, not one bit. Looking back, I was 100% naive and oblivious to any of that. I lived with 10 guys at the time I put the video up. We put it up online at night. We were joking around and took bets on how many views we think it would get in 24 hours. Whoever was closest would get dinner paid for by the other guys. I think the lowest bet was 2,000 views in 24 hours and the highest bet was 9,000 views in 24 hours. And I was like, "That is ludicrous; it'll never happen." And then in 24 hours it had 1.6 million views—just a little more than 9,000! And with that came all the criticism. And it was hard, the criticism. I don't want to relive those two weeks. I don't ever want to go back there.

    John: Do you think that to some extent you were exposing some people's false identity within the body of Christ, and that's what caused people to not like the video so much?

    Jefferson: Yeah. I would totally agree with that. I think when you read the Scriptures there's a level of Jesus being ridiculously pervasive, right? Offensive and pervasive and pushing back against certain paradigms and worldviews that had become stale, corrupt, stuff like that. So we have to recognize those are probably still there.

    When you tell the best people in the world, the most moral people in the world, i.e., the Pharisees, that what they're doing isn't good enough and what they're doing isn't working, and that Jesus doesn't approve of what they're doing, that's really offensive. A better way to say it is, they've missed it. If you go to those people who have dedicated their whole lives to doing X, Y and Z, and you say, “Hey, you missed it. It's actually about intimacy with your Creator and He desires mercy, not sacrifice," things like that, yeah that's offensive.

    John: Because all of a sudden you made it extremely personal then.

    Jefferson: Exactly. And that's what I thought was really interesting: Every denomination and almost every world religion took the video as offensive to them personally. I thought that was fascinating. There was a response from every religion. There was a Mormon video response, a Catholic video response, an atheist video response, etc. And then also a few denominations wrote critiques and responses. I never really mentioned any kind of cultural or denominational bent, and it was interesting that some people thought I was writing to them.

    John: As I was going through and reliving the video from a couple of years ago, I was also looking at some of those critiques and how they were coming from, like you said, both within the body of Christ—as far as a particular denomination—as well as those that would be outside the body of Christ—people that were maybe within a specific religion that would not be considered Christian. And I thought that was really ironic, because it was almost as if they weren't listening to what you were saying. They were more interested in protecting their own turf in a sense.

    Jefferson: Yes. That's a good way to put it, and what I think it turned into is everyone thought, "We have to respond with our version." In all honesty, I didn't totally lay my cards all out on the table, but that video was to Christians. That video wasn't really to anyone else. Maybe New Testament Christianity is just a little bit different than 21st century modern Evangelicalism in these ways. That was my thrust and heart behind writing it in the first place.

    John: When you look at the body of Christ today, Jefferson, are you excited? Are you hopeful? Do you have concerns over the church? You've been speaking both in churches and on college campuses since you put out the video—what have you seen?

    Jefferson: I'm always excited about the body of Christ. I think that's God's Plan A. There is no Plan B. And I think the promise He gave to Peter 2,000 years ago, that the gates of hell won't prevail against it, it's not going anywhere—that always excites me. No matter what happens, no matter what chaff might burn away, the body of Christ is always there and always changing the world and always moving and organic across the globe, making disciples. Yeah, that always excites me.

    This is a little bit more radical position, but I am excited about being in a more post-Christian society than a pseudo-Christian society, if that makes sense. Because I think there's a lot more opportunity for realness. You know whose team everyone is on.

    John: Well, there's a definite line between somebody who's standing up for the moral rights of an individual, or a group of people, and declaring that that is gospel, versus somebody that's saying what we find in the Bible is completely and radically different than what you're saying over here.

    Jefferson: Exactly, exactly. That excites me, because I think when you read church history, you see that when there's a little bit more purity of the body of Christ in a particular nation or society, then there seems to be a little bit more power. I think we're going to a place where the people who might only culturally want Jesus are falling by the wayside. It makes it a little bit easier for the gospel, too, because 15 years ago if you were to go up to anyone and say, "Let me tell you about Jesus," nine people out of ten would say, "I already raised my hand and signed a card. I don't need that."

    One thing that I think is a little scary for me is that the millennial generation is going to be the predominant generation here soon. I'm scared that when we get there, we're not setting ourselves up for success in the sense of community. I don't think my generation is very good at community. I don't think we're very good at vulnerability, I don't think we're very good at not living individualistically and submitting to others out of love. I think that can really come back to bite us in 20 or 30 years. That would be one thing that's scaring me about the future.

    John: Jefferson, would you consider yourself to be a theologian?

    Jefferson: I think technically everyone's a theologian; some people just have really crappy theology. I'm going to just say that bluntly because it's kind of true. But if you're asking in the traditional sense, it's yes and no. Yes, because technically everyone is. All that means is that you have studies about God and views about God and knowledge of God actually. But then technically, no, because I'm not a Ph.D. or anything of that nature. I do think there's a little bit of idolatry in America over degrees, over power of the Spirit, if that makes sense. Like if you didn't go to seminary, then don't talk about God. I just don't see that in the Scriptures. I do see education and knowledge and context, all those things being vitally important, but there's a little tension there.

    John: You're about ready to launch your first book, Jesus Is Greater Than Religion. Was that the logical next step?

    Jefferson: For me, book writing has always been my heart, always been my love, always been something I’ve wanted to do. It's something that's been a dream of mine.

    A lot of people don't know this, but poetry isn't really my—how do I say this?—it's not really my huge calling, desire, overarching passion. Those poems were written because I was trying to force myself to figure something out that would work on a stage to talk to a couple of hundred students at a specific university. You can't speak, you can't preach for 45 minutes at an open mic, and I can't sing or play instruments, so I thought I would make something rhyme and see how it goes. And when I first did it, I thought that would be the first and the last poem I'd ever write. Obviously it's snowballed since then, but I've only written five or six poems.

    My heart really is in teaching. Even outside of seminary or anything like that, I wanted to be a high school teacher, teach social studies and government. Now I really enjoy teaching the Word. I've always had that teaching bent. I think poems were one outflow of that, and so for me, a book actually feels more natural to me, in the sense of what I like to do, what stirs me. I hope based on how well this one does and the second one that I have to turn in next year, that hopefully I can do this for good and make it one of the predominant things I do for the next 50 years. But that could just be a hopeful wish. We'll see.

    John: When you do walk into a university, a college campus, or a church as a speaker, what are you speaking about? Are you dovetailing off what took place in the poetry and the video?

    Jefferson: It depends what they invite me for. For example, my wife Alyssa and I traveled

    Jeff

    to West Virginia a couple of weeks ago for a church camp. That was more like sessions where I'm walking them through certain things. I think I spoke eight times or something like that. If it's just one Sunday service, then people usually know me from the poem, I'll take that familiarity and say, "OK, this is what I was trying to do with that." And I'll speak on the prodigal son, or I'll speak on the difference between religion and Jesus and say, "This is my heart. This is what I think, where we need to go and how we convey the gospel from here on out."

    John: You and your wife are launching something new. How would you describe it?

    Jefferson: I'd call it a social startup or a social entrepreneurship.

    John: Tell us about it.

    Jefferson: I started it with a buddy of mine named Brett. He's the CEO and I'm the co-founder with him. He does a lot of non-profit work with development in Uganda and Ghana and all these different places in Africa. And then, me and a buddy of mine do a college ministry in town. We started to get this burden for non-profits. They're usually doing the best Kingdom work, but also struggle the most for resources and finances. They always have to do the same ask. Sooner or later they run out of money and have to go ask again.

    We said, "What would it look like if we entered the domain of business, redeemed that culture of business, did it differently as a Christian and showed that the gospel informs business just as much as it informs non-profit work? And then used that to give money, or to bring light and social awareness to different causes?"

    Our tagline is bring light to social injustice. We thought candles were really interesting symbols for a few reasons. They're in everyone's homes. You don't really have to be a certain age to be a candle person. I love candles. I know people that love candles. It burns for a long time, and so even as a symbol, it's remembrance. When you burn a candle, you're remembering something.

    What each candle represents is a different element of injustice. We have one that's called Peace, which is for child soldiers. We have candles for Food, Education, Water, etc. We have nine all together. Each time you buy a candle, there's a different tangible outcome. If you buy a small Food candle, it gives one meal to a child in need. If you buy a large Food candle, it gives three meals. If you buy the Addiction candle, it gives an hour session of counseling to bring people out of addiction.

    It's our way of bringing light to social injustice. We wanted the candle to be in someone's home where they're remembering they are in solidarity with humanity. They are supporting someone across the globe or in their backyard by that purchase.

    We didn't want to start something new in the sense of a non-profit; we wanted to raise awareness and funds for people who are already doing awesome stuff.

    John: That's very cool. All right, one last question, Jeff. You're a Pacific Northwesterner. So are you a coffee drinker?

    Jefferson: I am not just a coffee drinker, I am a coffee-IV-in-my vein-drinker. My wife and I love coffee. I just had a cup of coffee a second ago. We're those snobs who research how to make it perfectly, fiddle with temperatures, all that stuff.

    Do you remember watching the video?

    SIDE NOTE: Jefferson asked his friends and followers to submit videos in supporting his new book. Here is the winner. A powerful video indeed.

    What do you think?

  • Brandon Heath Announces Holiday Album, Christmas Is Here

    Posted on September 16, 2013 by Family Christian

    Emmy Award-winning, five-time GRAMMY nominee Brandon Heath will release his first holiday offering, Christmas Is Here, Oct.15, 2013. Rich in musical diversity, Christmas Is Here takes listeners on a nostalgic journey through the most anticipated time of the year. “I want people to just hear a song and slip back into the past,” Heath says. “Good Christmas music is really about sparking people’s memories.”

    Heath has dreamed of creating a Christmas album for a long time and invited some friends to join him in the studio to make the process memorable. Sonja Isaacs, Ellie Holcomb and Matt Wertz all contributed background vocals, and Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson, Matt Wertz)  produced the album, which was recorded in mid-July.

    The award-winning songwriter looked to some of his favorite Christmas albums for inspiration—recordings by Nat King Cole, Harry Connick, Jr., Patty Loveless and Kenny & Dolly—desiring to craft a timeless release fans would want to pull out year after year. Reflecting his influences, Christmas Is Here features three originals and seven classics, including traditional arrangements of “The Christmas Song,” “O Come All Ye Faithful/Angels, We Have Heard on High,” “Silent Night” and “The Bleak Midwinter,” among others. The well-known Christmas songs showcase a spectrum of sounds ranging from big band to a cappella to bluegrass.

    Two of the three new cuts reveal Heath’s witty personality that has endeared the hit-making award winner to audiences. “The Day After Thanksgiving” pokes fun at the Christmas commercialism that sets in at the end of summer, leading most to completely overlook fall, one of Heath’s favorite times of year. “Momma Wouldn’t Lie to Me” is equally as lighthearted, with Heath putting his parents on the spot for the truth about Santa, mirroring a real-life conversation from his childhood. “Rest assured, no child-like beliefs will be harmed due to the listening of the song. No spoilers!” Heath proclaims.

    In his trademark storyteller fashion, Heath highlights a lesser known character in the Christmas story on “Just A Girl”—the innkeeper who turned Mary and Joseph away. “I took a little creative license to tell what happened,” he explains. Through the innkeeper’s eyes, Mary is seen as an ordinary girl, but Heath notes the irony of the scene. “There’s a story [about] when a non-believer asked a Catholic, ‘Why is Mary so crucial to the Christmas story?’ And the Catholic says, ‘She’s just a girl who said yes.’ I think that says a lot for us,” Heath offers. “God is often giving us opportunities we don’t realize the significance of, but we just need to say yes. God can do things though ordinary people. Mary was just a girl, but she was also a catalyst in a huge event in the rest of history.”

    Fans can see Heath live on tobyMac’s “Hits Deep” Tour beginning November 7 and running through mid-December. The tour will hit 20 cities this fall and also features Mandisa, Jamie Grace, Colton Dixon, Chris August and Capital Kings. Heath and Mandisa will also reunite for select dates this fall on their popular “Brandisa” tour.

  • HILLSONG UNITED RELEASES OCEANS EP

    Posted on September 13, 2013 by Family Christian

    Hillsong UNITED has had an impactful year with the release of ZION, which debuted at No. 4 on Billboard 200 with their highest Billboard debut and at No. 1 on the ARIA Australian chart. ZION has resonated with fans around the world.  Now fans can get the Oceans EP, which is being released due to the overwhelming response to the song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” from ZION. “Oceans” was written by Matt Crocker, Joel Houston and Salomon Ligthelm.

    The EP features the original version of the song, a radio version, a live version recorded at the monumental Red Rocks in Denver during UNITED’s sold out show, a remix version and an acoustic video that includes UNITED’s Joel Houston talking about the heart behind this iconic song. Click here to purchase the Oceans EP.

    Fans can also pick-up the September/October issue of RELEVANT that features Houston on the cover.  RELEVANT is devoted to making an impact on progressive culture by covering faith, health, lifestyle, pop culture, career, relationships, current issues and music.

    Earlier this summer, UNITED toured the first half of their U.S. “Welcome Zion” tour performing in front of more than 80,000 fans. This leg of the tour was listed in the Top 20 Concert Tours from Pollstar. The Australian group will return in November for 10 additional tour stops including Boston, Atlanta and Miami as well as a stop in Canada for one show. These appearances will be highlighted at the first-ever Hillsong Conferences held in New York City on Oct. 4-5 at Radio City Music Hall, and in Los Angeles on Oct. 18-19 at the Nokia Theatre.

  • PHILLIPS, CRAIG & DEAN CELEBRATES THE HOLIDAY WITH CHRISTMAS RELEASE

    Posted on September 13, 2013 by Family Christian

    Best-selling music trio Phillips, Craig & Dean ushers in this holiday season with its second Christmas release, Hope For All the World, Oct. 1. The album combines both original songs and classics for a timeless Christmas recording guaranteed to be a holiday favorite.

    Hope For All the World is a fitting title for Phillips, Craig & Dean’s latest offering. Given their individual roles as both musicians and full-time senior pastors, Randy, Shawn and Dan have a unique perspective from which to create and record. Interfacing daily with their congregants, they experience firsthand the struggles people face and the difference faith makes. This project celebrates that faith in a way that offers hope and points to the Gospel.

    “The Christmas season trumpets one amazing message through the vocal chords of a tiny baby…hope,” says Randy Phillips. “Hope for the hurting, hope for the alienated, hope for the empty, hope for the discouraged, hope for the purposelessness. Because of Christmas and the main character in the straw, we can be reconciled to God, freed from guilt, and full of purpose.”

    Hope For All the World features 11 songs, including the group’s take on traditional carols like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings,” “The First Noel,” and “Jingle Bells (Duck Mix).” Also on the CD are brand new tracks like “For All the World,” “A Night of Hope,” and “God Bless Us,” among others.

    The album’s singles, “Born Is The King (It’s Christmas)” will begin vying for adds at Christian radio in November. Phillips, Craig & Dean will also perform selections from Hope For All the World on tour throughout the month of December.

  • Colton Dixon - Never Gone

    Posted on September 13, 2013 by Family Christian

    Colton Dixon’s musical journey has been a long time in the making, beginning with piano lessons at 7 years old and culminating in his time as a finalist on season 11 of American Idol. A lifelong fan of Christian music, Colton remembers his first concert at age 13, performing "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe. That’s when he knew he had found his calling.

    With a humble spirit, Colton answers the call, to be a messenger for a purpose greater than himself. His debut album, A Messenger, carries that message of hope and God’s unyielding love.

    Here is his new video for the song Never Gone.

    What do you think? Leave your comments below.

  • The Digital Age Declared “Best New Addition to the Worship Genre”

    Posted on September 12, 2013 by Family Christian

    Fair Trade band The Digital Age released their debut studio album Evening:Morning last month to widespread acclaim and affirmation. The four-piece, Waco, TX based group, made up of Mike Dodson (Mike D), Mark Waldrop, Jack Parker and Jeremy Bush (Bwack), formerly of the GRAMMY®-nominated David Crowder*Band, received nods from several major Christian media outlets, as well as their former lead singer David Crowder. Worship Leader Magazine went as far as calling the album the “best new addition to the worship genre this year.”

    “Worship is not a passive exercise. Our praise should be symphonic. On the first full-length album by The Digital Age, this aesthetic is on full display,” said RELEVANT Magazine.

    Evening:Morning bowed at No. 3 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart and was the top streaming album on the Christian/Gospel chart for street week.

    Later this month, The Digital Age will embark on a headlining, nationwide tour to promote their release of Evening:Morning. Kicking off September 26 in their hometown of Waco, TX at University Baptist Church, the tour will feature Christian pop group Bellarive and will make 30+ stops across the country.

    Earlier this summer, The Digital Age asked their fans to record themselves singing along with their single “Captured” to be included in the official music video coming soon.

    “We've always cherished our interactions with our fans. We are the one's posting and replying on our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc., not some social media company,” said Mike Dodson of The Digital Age. “We wanted to extend that direct relationship to include our ticketing process as a way to stay connected with our friends and offer tickets with a greatly reduced service fee. We just want to be able to get in the same room with folks and sing with one voice to our God! It's why we do what we do.”

    “Evening:Morning Tour with Special Guest Bellarive” Dates
    (Dates are subject to change)
    September 26 - Waco, Texas | University Baptist Church
    September 27 - Hobbs, New Mexico | Hobbs First Assembly
    September 28 - Tucson, Arizona | St. Andrew's Presbyterian
    September 29 - Tempe, Arizona | Christ Life Church
    October 3 - Fullerton, California | First Evangelical Community Church
    October 4 - San Diego, California | NYWC*
    October 5 - Las Vegas, Nevada | Station Cafe 3:16
    October 6 - Carson City, Nevada | Calvary Chapel Carson City
    October 8 - Chico, California | El Rey Theater
    October 9 - Eugene, Oregon | W.O.W. Hall
    October 10 - Portland, Oregon | TBA
    October 11 - Tacoma, Washington | Our Savior Lutheran Church
    October 12 - Richmond, British Columbia | The Tapestry Church
    October 13 - Coeur D'Alene, Idaho | Salvation Army KROC Center
    October 15 - Granger, Indiana | Innovate Conference*
    October 16 - Colorado Springs, Colorado | The Loft Music Venue
    October 18 - San Antonio, Texas | Journey Fellowship
    October 19 - Dallas, Texas | First Baptist McKinney
    October 20 - Houston, Texas | First Baptist Church
    October 24 - Farmington, Missouri | Farmington Centene Center
    October 25 - Tulsa, Oklahoma | Central Church
    October 26 - Siloam Springs, Arkansas | Harvard Avenue Baptist Church
    October 27 - Dardanelle, Arkansas | Dardanelle First Baptist
    October 29 - Woodbury, Minnesota | Five Oaks Church
    October 30 - Leseur, Minnesota | LSH High School Auditorium
    October 31 - Chicago, Illinois | Judson University
    November 1 - Detroit, Michigan | Metro South Church
    November 2 - Cincinnati, Ohio | The Underground
    November 3 - Cleveland, Ohio | NEO Church
    November 6 - Jacksonville, Florida | Murray Hill Theatre
    November 10 - Nashville, Tennessee | TBA

    *No Bellarive

  • Five Questions With Author Tracy Groot

    Posted on September 9, 2013 by Family Christian


    Tracy Groot is the critically acclaimed and Christy Award–winning author of several novels. Her most recent books exemplify her unique style of storytelling—reimagining biblical stories within other historical contexts. Tracy's novels have received starred Booklist and Publishers Weekly reviews and have been called "beautifully written" and "page-turning" by Publishers Weekly and "gripping" with "exquisitely drawn" characters by Library Journal. Tracy and her husband have three boys and together run a coffee shop in Holland, Michigan.

    Tracy has a new book coming out early 2014 titled, The Sentinels of Andersonville. We thought that we would sit down with her and ask her a few questions about life.

    What got you interested in writing about the Civil War era?
    I watched a film when I was a kid called The Andersonville Trial. I was a film buff even then, and one element of the story stayed with me: a man testified that the commandant of Andersonville turned away four wagonloads full of food donated for the starving prisoners. He refused to allow Southern citizens to feed Yankees--even dying ones. The story haunted me. Then, in my twenties, a friend loaned me a book called John Ransom's Andersonville Diary. It was another heartbreaking story that never left me.

    In doing your research, how were you challenged the most?
    I had to get into the mind of a Confederate Southerner. I had to think like one in order to write like one. So to put it into a context I could relate to, I imagined how I would feel if, 10 miles from Hudsonville, Michigan, a prison had been built that housed up to 33,000 Muslim terrorists--and one of my sons had died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. How would I feel about feeding them, if I knew they were starving? Would I do what God told me to, and feed my enemy regardless? Or would I feel that to feed them is to be a traitor to my nation and to my son? And if I was inclined to help, then what would I do if my government actually forbade it?

    Are any of the characters in your books based on your personal life?
    Not any one particular character. I suppose they all have a little bit of me in them, because I have to tap into a lot of Me in order to get to Them. In early development, I tend to give characters recognizable elements from people I know, and then the characters take off with it and become who they are; I've found that real human beings defy getting trapped on paper. They won't stand for it, and fictional characters won't stand for it either. They want to be who they are, not Aunt Helen or my brother Rick. But when I start out with Aunt Helen or Rick, I start from a place where I am familiar with certain personality traits and I can write strongly--then the characters get some feet under them, and take it from there.

    What has God been teaching you lately?
    He's been reminding me that I need to put action to my thinking. G.K. Chesterton said that right thinking is a waste without right action. I believe that's true. Then we'd all just be a bunch of philosophers on a rock. I heard on the radio today that the action people took in the Bible brought about divine response. I've been meditating on this, from Psalm 50:23--"He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me, and to him who orders his way aright, will I show the salvation of God." Basically--God helps those who help themselves. It's not enough for me to mentally assent. God wants action, whatever it is. I may not feel like taking action at all. I may not feel like I have faith. But, as I also heard today, "You can be full of faith and no feeling." And this: "You believe by following through on the action proscribed." If I know I need to bite my tongue about something, mental assent does no good unless I bite my tongue. I believe God blesses the most faltering steps, if step out, we do. I believe he even honors and blesses it when I holler, "You know what, God?! I sure as heck don't feel like biting my tongue right now--so if you want me to, then you're gonna have to pull off a miracle--give me the want to." If I can at least tell God how displeased I am about having to obey something, that opens up a line of communication between us--it shows me and it shows God that I know who I need to go to for the hard things, when I just can't pull it off myself. I've also been meditating on a George McDonald quote: "He gave man the power to thwart His will, that when he comes at last to do His will, he may do so in a higher kind and way than otherwise would have been possible to him."

    What is on your "bucket list?
    A few bucket list things: I'd like to visit Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, and the Scottish Hebrides. Not necessarily in that order. I'd like to be on the NY Times bestseller list. I'd like to have lunch with the entire cast of BBC's Merlin for a cast reunion to talk about old times. (Well--they'll talk about old times; I'll interject pithy comments and take pictures.) Then I'd talk them into a new series, where Arthur comes back. Finally, I'd like to co-star on Alphas, my current favorite sci-fi series; I'd hang out all day with my favorite Alpha, Gary.

    For more information on Tracy, click here.

  • New Video from Sanctus Real - Pray

    Posted on August 28, 2013 by Family Christian

    Rather than simply glossing over struggles, Sanctus Real has never been afraid to shine a light on challenges and hardships. On the band’s sixth studio album, Run, Sanctus Real have written songs that promise to become encouraging anthems of hope and healing that listeners can cling to in their own trying times. Through both their struggles and victories, the guys in Sanctus Real have come to realize there’s only one place to run, and that’s into God's arms, and to his word and promises.

    The band continues to build on their best-selling and 2010 Grammy nominated album, Pieces of a Real Heart, that carried the breakthrough song of their career. “‘Lead Me’ was a cry from the heart that resounded with families everywhere. We've devoted the better part of our lives writing songs that we pray will matter. Hearing countless stories of how God can use a song has been both humbling and inspiring,” says frontman Matt Hammitt.

    Rather than glossing over their struggles, Sanctus Real is never afraid to shine a light on their challenges and hardships. On the band’s sixth studio album, Run, Sanctus Real presents songs that promise to become encouraging anthems of hope and healing that listeners can cling to in their own trying times.

    Songs like the first single from Run, "Pray," will find you exactly where you are, sharing the struggles and victories that make up the life story of a band that wears its heart on its sleeve.

    Watch the video here:

    What do you think?

  • The 44th Annual GMA Dove Awards' Nominations Are...

    Posted on August 22, 2013 by Family Christian

    The 44th Annual GMA Dove Awards is Gospel music's biggest night of the year, featuring top artists from the many different genres of Gospel and Christian music. The event will be an evening of music and celebration held at Lipscomb University's Allen Arena on Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Recently, the GMA announced the nominations for the 44th Annual GMA Dove Awards.  Some of the highlights are:

    Artist of the Year-
    Chris Tomlin
    Francesca Battistelli
    Lecrae
    Tamela Mann
    TobyMac

    New Artist of the Year-
    Capital Kings
    Colton Dixon
    for King & Country
    Rhett Walker Band
    Tasha Cobbs

    Again, for the full list, click here for a downloadable pdf.

  • Sara Groves Reveals The Collection On September 17

    Posted on August 21, 2013 by Family Christian

    Sara Groves is embraced as an esteemed, talented singer-songwriter and consummate storyteller. On September 17, Sara will release The Collection, celebrating her career thus far and culling the best and brightest from her 10 studio albums. The Collection weaves together Sara’s catalog of career successes from her debut record, Past the Wishing to her latest project, the critically praised release of Invisible Empires. In addition to the 23 songs from her repertoire, the September two-disc release will also include four brand new songs. Beginning next week and leading into November, Sara will release new live performance videos from select songs off The Collection.

    “I made a map of my life on my 40th birthday and remembered in broad strokes the first 20 years of my life and then the second,” says Sara. “I was amazed that there was rarely just one monolithic line, plummeting and rising, but that in the darker hours, there was almost always a counter-rise. You know what I’m talking about because when I go out and sing, you come and tell me about your plummeting and rising and these songs that mark each turn in the line. We’ve done our best to compile a group of songs to follow that line and 15 years of making music.”

    In tune with the release of The Collection, Sara and friends Andrew Peterson and Bebo Norman will embark on the “In The Round Tour” this fall. The multi-city tour begins in September and runs through November, sharing stories from each artist’s latest releases.

    Track Listing for The Collection:
    *New tracks

    DISC 1
    1. Strangely Ready*
    2. Maybe There’s a Loving God
    3. The Word
    4. You Are The Sun
    5. Something Changed
    6. Add To The Beauty
    7. How Is It Between Us
    8. Awakening
    9. Fly
    10. Painting Pictures of Egypt
    11. You Cannot Lose My Love
    12. He’s Always Been Faithful
    13. Blessed Be The Tie*

    DISC 2
    1. Lay It Down*
    2. When The Saints
    3. Eyes Wide Open
    4. Come Thou Fount
    5. Every Minute
    6. Fireflies And Songs
    7. Setting Up The Pins
    8. Miracle
    9. Roll To The Middle
    10. I Saw What I Saw
    11. All Right Here
    12. Eye On The Prize
    13. Why It Matters
    14. Kindness of Strangers*

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