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  • Saying "I Love You"

    Posted on January 23, 2014 by John van der Veen


    During the first month and a half of every year, we all turn our eyes towards those we love. We say something sweet. Some may even eat something sweet.

    Many people say that Valentines Day is a made up holiday, put in place by the greeting card companies of the world. Well, truth be told, I don't care. It is a day to help us remember to say "I love you" to those around us. Taking the time each day to show love is certainly important, but it's also fun to get caught up in a holiday such as this day.

    So how do you say "I love you" to someone you love? Perhaps it's packing two cookies in the kid's school lunch. Maybe it's a surprise delivery of flowers for your spouse at work. Maybe it's even a call to your mother-in-law. How do you say "I love you?"

    We ask some of our friends to share their thoughts and ideas. See below for some great inspiration and pointers.

    My favorite way to say 'I love you' to someone is to push aside my hesitations, my duties, and my distractions so that my loved one knows I'm all there, and there’s no place else I’d rather be.
    -Rachel Macy Stafford (Hands Free Mama)

    "...is to come alongside them in their struggles and pray over them, speak encouraging truth from God's Word into their lives and look for ways to lighten their load. Galatians 6 says, 'Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."
    - Stephen Kendrick

    “I listen well and when I try to supply what someone needs, whether it's something I buy or something I do for them.”
    Colleen Coble, USA Today-best-selling author of Butterfly Palace and Smitten Book Club

    “My favorite way to say I love you to someone is by surprising him or her with a special and unexpected gift.”
    - Beth Wiseman

    “My favorite way to say 'I love you' to someone is by giving them my full attention.  I slip my phone back into my purse, take my eyes off the computer, and stop watching the television. Giving someone your complete attention shows them that what they are saying is valuable to you. It also feels good to have someone's attention for a few moments. Maybe you're not even talking, you're just being together. It helps the person to feel cared for. So when I want to show someone I love them, I unplug and pay attention with my mind, my heart, and both ears.”
    - Vannetta Chapman

    “My favorite way to say "I love you" is to do something unexpected. One example is surprising my teenage and young adult kids by doing their laundry or cleaning their rooms. Or I'll make my husband's favorite meal/dessert even when it's not a special occasion. Understanding the people I love, knowing what they need and want, and then giving it to them when they least expect it is a wonderful way to express love.”
    - Kathleen Fuller

    “My favorite way to say "I love you" is a lot like Elf's favorite way to spread Christmas cheer -- by singing loud for all to hear!”
    - Krista McGee

    "My favorite way to say "I love you" is to take their face in both of my hands so that they can't look at the screen beside them or down at the phone in their lap. Then I draw their face very, very close to mine until all they can see is my face.  At this point my heart always slows a little bit in anticipation because I know that I have their undivided attention. I look deeply into their eyes until I connect with that heart of theirs that I love so much and I say it, "I love you," and I smile.  Then I get to see the most precious thing known to me.  Their body relaxes a bit and a look of relief from the cares of the world melts their face. In that moment they know that they are loved--deeply, for real, forever.  My heart aches just thinking about it."
    - Susan Merrill

    “My favorite way to say 'I love you' to someone is to cook a nice dinner for them! My favorite time of day is when I have family and friends gathered around the dinner tables. I love happy smiles, bellies getting filled up, and the great conversation and laughter!”
    - Tricia Goyer

    "My favorite way to say, “I love you,” to someone is in small daily interactions that fit with the way God wired the people in my life to best hear love. For example, my husband and sons speak the language of respect. So I ask them for opinions when I’m making decisions. I don’t interrupt them. I avoid starting sentences with the word, “Why?” as it is received as a challenge. I recommend by starting with, “This may be something you already thought about, but have you considered, XYZ?” And when I disagree, I say, “I think that is an awesome idea! I love XYZ about it. One thing I’m wondering is how (my concern) fits into that…what do you think?” And I will often just work alongside them, responding to them, and providing help instead of instigating conversation. And with my daughter? She receives love best by being listened to, empathized with, and touched. To love people well, we need to love them like Jesus did, meeting them where they already are."
    Nina Roesner - Author, The Respect Dare

    ". . . to verbally tell them. It's amazing how many people don't say 'I love you.' I get my older brother with that all the time. But also, I look to say 'I love you' by giving or doing something the other person loves. My husband is an introvert and loves alone time. So I allow him to just 'be' without bugging him. Another way to say 'I love you' is to speak destiny over someone, especially teens. By saying, 'Hey, I see this in you,' eyes and hearts really light up."
    - Rachel Hauck

    ". . . written words. Ever since I can remember I've expressed myself best in writing (maybe because I tend to cry if I express love and gratitude in person!). I like the way writing gives me time to think, reflect, and edit my words until they say exactly what I mean."
    - Deborah Raney

    ". . . to take on a chore or run an errand I know he or she has been dreading. I believe love is indeed a verb."
    - Dorothy Love

    ". . . to speak the words aloud . . . and to speak them often. Naturally, love must be shown with actions as well, but words matter so I try not to let an opportunity pass me by to say, 'I love you.'"
    - Robin Lee Hatcher

    ". . . to bake them something. Cookies, cheesecake, granola – whatever sweet treat they like best!"
    - Denise Hunter

    "One thing I’ve noticed about saying “I love you” is that it has so much less to do with my favorite way to say it, and so much more to do with who I’m saying it to.  For my husband, speaking love means communicating words of gratitude and appreciation.  For my kids, it means turning off technology, holding them close, and playing games with them on our living room floor. There are so many ways to say I love you, but I’m learning to speak love in the ways that matter most to the people I love. "
    --Debra K. Fileta, M.A., LPC, Author of True Love Dates

    "My favorite way to say I love you is by spending quality time and giving thoughtful gifts."
    - Garrett Hornbuckly, All Things New

    “One of my favorite things to do, depending on how old the members of my household are, is to write '14 things I love about you' (my daughter is 14) 1 - You are so beautiful inside and out. 2 - You are so much fun to be around 3 - you have such a tender heart etc. With my husband, I like to use the years we have been married as my guide as we are getting so much older now and I'd have to find a pretty big card if I was going to go by age! We have been married for nearly 22 years now and he is an incredible man of God, so I like to remind him how amazing he is. I don't think we should ever take it for granted that the ones we love know how much they mean to us. Taking the time to communicate will help to reinforce the bond of love between us.”
    – Sam Evans, Planetshakers

    "I only know one way to say 'I love you,' I guess two ways if you count Spanish.  This is the best I could come up with: My favorite way to say 'I love you' to someone is…through action.  Daily, consistently and intently.”
    Fawn Weaver

    "My favorite way to say 'I love you' to someone is to do the one thing that I know will mean the most to them. Learn the language of those you love."
    - Sheila Walsh

    'My favorite way to say 'I love you' to my husband is to try to remember to say 'thank you' for what he does, when he mows the lawn or overcomes exhaustion to play with the kids or does something that makes me happy. That says 'I love you' to him more than anything else!"
    - Shaunti Feldhahn

    "My favorite way to say 'I love you' to someone is with one-on-one time including lots of laughter and hugs."
    - Kim Vogel

    "My favorite way to say 'I Love You' to someone is giving them my time. For my mom, who has Alzheimer's Disease, it's sitting with her on the patio watching for birds. For my hubby, it's watching a rerun of  a Star Trek TV show with him. For my grandson, Ryan, it's engaging in a Wii game tournament."
    - Mona Hodgson

    “My favorite way to say 'I love you' to someone is chocolate chip cookies. Well, cookies and kind words. I love the idea of calling out the good in someone. For me, an encouraging word or a reminder of what's true can carry me through rough days, so speaking life into someone I love brings me a lot of joy...and so do chocolate chip cookies!"

    "[Another] favorite way to say 'I love you' to someone is…to ask them how they're doing and really listen. So often, "How are you?" is just another way of saying "Hey!". I love taking the time to really listen to the people I love, to hear their hearts and their dreams and their struggles. These conversations are where true community happens, and I'm so grateful for the people who have slowed down to really listen to me."
    - Ellie Holcomb

    "My favorite way to say ‘I love you’ to someone is “to do an act or sacrificial service that will demonstrate in deed how much I love them.”
    -Dr. Tony Evans

    "My favorite way to say I love you is through food! I love to cook and bake and nothing brings me more joy then to cook my husband or someone their favorite meal or treat!"
    - Molly Reed, City Harbor

    "My favorite way to say ‘I love you’ to someone is to point out simple things about them that I really value. I think sometimes people just need to be reminded that you're grateful for who they are.”
    - Robby Earle, City Harbor

  • MercyMe's Shake - Q&A

    Posted on January 22, 2014 by John van der Veen

    MercyMe's new album, Welcome to the New releases later this year. Their first single from the album, Shake, hit stations already and is climbing the charts.

    We thought we would ask a few questions about Shake and their new album.

    Your new song, Shake, is a bit of different path for traditional MercyMe singles. What is the inspiration behind the song?

    "The inspiration behind the song really came out of a new season we're in, and that I'm in personally, in learning about God's grace. The idea that, because we've been changed and because He sees us with no condemnation we should be floating on air because we have something that most of the world doesn't. Ironically, we're the power ballad band, so I'm excited about "Shake" because it's energy and beat offer a small glimpse of how I feel, and where I am right now.

    I'm a horrible dancer. But I'm allowed to dance in front of my kids (even though they think I'm horrible too). But everybody can shake or shimmy. And I hope the sound of this song will inspire people to do just that.

    My favorite line says "Brand new looks so good on you" and that's where the title of the album came from. I think we as a whole we need to understand that no matter what we've done we remain new, and we can't mess it up because of the cross. The old is dead and gone and we're redeemed, no matter what the world or the enemy tells us. So that's what the album is about. You're going to hear a lot of the same grace message throughout the album, and that is on purpose. So that being said, we just thought "Shake" was the perfect song to start with. And we hope it gets people excited."
    - Bart

    You guys look like you had a lot of fun making the video. What was that experience like?

    "Making the "Shake" video was a fun time for us. We hadn't made a real music video in 6 or 7 years. So it was fun to finally have an idea and make it come to life. We blocked off downtown streets in Huntsville, had a remote controlled octo-copter camera, and over 100 extras including some choreographed dancers, so it was a blast. We are all just a bunch of goofball dads, so we wanted to show that Christians could have fun and have a good time. We wanted to encourage others to get up and shake like we have a reason to.

    In fact we even created the "Shake" dance you see in the video, and it seems to be catching on with people. We've been seeing others posting their own "Shakes" with the #MMShake hash tag, and have gotten to record some additional videos doing the dance with radio stations. So it's been a lot fun to see people getting into it."
    - Robby

    Anything specific we can look forward to on your new album?

    "We're really excited about the record. I think we're supposed to say that every time we make an album, and hopefully it's better than the last one. But, I can honestly say this one is different for us. The title "Welcome To The New" really speaks on behalf of a lot of things. We're in a new season as a band, but also for me personally. I'm in a place where the Gospel seems brand new to me. I grew up in a very legalistic church. They didn't directly say that it was about works, but there always seemed like there was an opportunity to try harder. And I was taught that the better you were, the more you were in God's favor. Then about 2 years or so ago I was in a place personally where I felt so many things were just hanging by a thread. I was doing everything to try to succeed because I thought that's what I was supposed to do. So I wanted to be really good at it and thought that God would be pleased. It didn't make any sense until a friend came into my life and spoke the truth of God's grace to me. That there's nothing I can do to make Christ love me more than he already does. And for some reason I somehow never really heard that before.

    If I don't do another great thing; if I have the ability to sabotage everything good about my life. Because I know Christ, his Grace will still be enough. And I realize that I probably speak on behalf of a lot of the church that tries really hard. We keep ourselves busy thinking that if we do the song and dance long enough God will say "I see you amongst all those people, way to go!" And I realized that this whole time he's been screaming out, "I have been pleased with you since the day you called my name, and I have never stopped. Even at your worst I'm madly in love with you." Even at our ugliest and at our worst the Bible says to come boldly to the throne. We were all unworthy, broken vessels who didn't deserve it before. But now the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells inside of us, and we're holy as he is holy.

    There's a song on the album called "Flawless," and the chorus says: "No matter the bumps, no matter the bruises, no matter the scars or how deep the wound is. The cross has made me flawless." So, I'm hoping this record can speak that grace message to people. The same message that has become brand new to me. And I've never been more excited about telling people that they are redeemed, and holy and righteous."
    - Bart

  • Remembering Heart in Motion - Amy Grant

    Posted on January 14, 2014 by John van der Veen

    It doesn't take much to unlock the memories of our past. It might be a smell in the air that brings us back to summer camps. Or a taste that helps us remember a grandmother's cooking. Or, in this case, a song.

    Do you remember what you were doing in 1991? Songstress, Amy Grant released her eighth album, Heart in Motion then. It was the follow up to the more acoustic album, Lead Me On and more mainstream pop album, Unguarded.

    Heart in Motion was certainly a pop album, meaning that it was "popular." It was commercial in every sense. Lyrically though, it varied from light songs about relationships (Good For Me) to heavier songs dealing with dark pain (Ask Me). Also, many of our churches have sung, and some still do, Hope Set High.

    Heart in Motion made a huge impact on the Christian music landscape. By the time 1997 rolled around, it had sold more than 5 million copies. Singles; Baby Baby, Every Heartbeat, Good for Me, and I Will Remember You all held #1 or #2 slots on mainstream radio stations for months on end. The album itself was listed as #30 in the book (now out-of-print) CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music. It also was nominated for a Grammy.

    Do you remember where you were when you heard Heart in Motion for the first time?

    Heart in Motion was a landmark release for me. “I will Remember You” and “Hope Set High” are two of my favorite Amy Grant songs of all-time. - Dan Hubka, Music Buyer; Family Christian

    It's fantastic. She's fantastic. Amy helped pave the way for girl singer - songwriter-guitarists like me. Ironically it came out the year I was born. - Jamie Grace

    "That album still holds a sweet spot in my heart and will forever have on my iPod. Also, that cover made me and many others get unfortunate perms, velvet dresses and a locket necklace." - Anita Renfroe

    Baby Baby

    That's What Love is For

    Good For Me

  • Love Will Have the Final Word - Jason Gray

    Posted on January 9, 2014 by Family Christian

    The title of Jason Gray’s newest Centricity Music release, Love Will Have the Final Word, speaks of decisiveness and closure. It’s a statement of confidence and determination. And it’s true: we live in the assurance that through all of our ups and downs, the ultimate victory has been won for us, and Love has spoken.

    It’s those ups and downs, though, that are the tricky part, and this soul-stirring collection of music speaks directly and powerfully to our present reality. This is an album that bravely avoids trite and simple platitudes thrown at our very real and complex circumstances. It’s an album that recognizes our loneliest of lows and our most hopeful highs. It’s an album that knows when to show empathy, when to give advice, and when to just come alongside and grieve.


    Jason Gray has emerged as a songwriter of extraordinary depth, with a noteworthy ability to convey deep theological truths in engaging three-and-a-half minute songs. The Minnesota native is steadily drawing legions of fans who recognize his ability to connect with listeners on an emotional level, offering not escape or distraction, but healing and hope. His 2012 release, A Way To See In The Dark, was named Album of the Year by critics and garnered three top-five radio singles, including "Nothing Is Wasted", which hit #1 for nine weeks.

  • The Ministry of Tenth Ave. North

    Posted on January 7, 2014 by John van der Veen



    Of course, fans of Tenth Ave. North know about their great music. For it's built on two foundations - depth in lyrics and musical creativity. For those of use who have seen the band live, have also been exposed to much more. A challenge to live our lives with a great passion for the glory of the Gospel.

    Mike Donehey continues to strike a cord of tension with those who are willing to listen. Some tension in life is truly good if it encourages us to do something. Mike, for the most part, does just that. His talks, whether in a live show or in a video, or an interruption that many of us need. He continues to make those that are comfortable, uncomfortable. Those that are sleepy in faith, awake.

    Below, we have grabbed a few videos that have been released by the band. These highlight what I am mentioning above. Take a few minutes today and see for yourself. Be encouraged. The struggle that God calls us to in the context of the Gospel is real. And good.

    "We really fostered the dance of both the music and they lyric while thematically unpacking the idea of what it means to struggle," says Mike Donehey. "We are free to struggle, but don't need to struggle to be free. It's about the permission to struggle but also a challenge not to stay there."

  • Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.

    Posted on January 6, 2014 by Dan Hubka



    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    There is a vulnerable side to this young lady. And if you didn't know it already, you will be able to hear it by reading the interview below. Franny came to our corporate Christmas party to bring encouragement and holiday greetings. After I sat down with her, I was reminded again about her passion.

    Dan:                Is there anything you can tell us about the new album?

    Francesca:     Yes. It will be out April 22nd hopefully, and it's called If We're Honest. It's going to be amazing. I'm so excited about it. It's my favorite one yet. I think that's probably normal, but I really feel like these songs are just right and the timing is right for them. There's just a lot of energy on this record which I feel like the last one lacked even though I love it. I think it's going to be really good and a whole new season.

    Dan:                If we're honest.  What does that mean?  At least on this particular record.

    Francesca:     Well, it's the title of my favorite song on the record which is just a very honest song about really just that.  If we were truly authentic with each other and honest with each other all the time and kind of not tried to hide behind the facade of everything's fine and I'm perfect and life is great.  I feel like that is sort of what the enemy wants us to do to isolate ourselves and keep us from true community and truly being the body of Christ.

    It just came from some experiences where I felt like the song is personal because I really feel like that's just all too prevalent not just in this industry but in Christianity especially in America of just everything's fine, and I'm not really going to be myself with you.  I'm not going to let you know really any of my junk, but you can't get healed of anything unless you confess and kind of are out there.  It's sort of a heavy song on a very lighter record, but it's needed I think in it's truths.

    Dan:                Absolutely.  I've found that it can be a very scary thing to reveal those things, but what evil wants us to believe is that we're alone and that nobody is going to relate to those things if we're honest so a very relevant topic.

    Francesca:     Totally, because I think when you are honest that's when you are sort of just real with whatever is going on in your life.  That's when grace comes in.  We naturally want to give grace and support and encouragement to someone who says, "This is the truth.  This is what I'm going through."  But, yeah, you're right.  The enemy tries to tell us the opposite.  "They're going to hate you." Which is not true.

    Dan:                You said something that I didn't think any artist was allowed to say which was, "My favorite song on this record is ..."  I thought people weren't allowed to say their favorite songs, but you actually have favorites.

    Francesca:     I do.  I always have favorites.  Yeah.  I love every song on this record.  I'm so excited about it, but this one from the moment we started writing it, I just knew this was going to be the one that was my favorite and it is.

    Dan:                Was the recording process different for you at all this time around?

    Francesca:     Yeah, it actually was. The last two records if you do count Christmas, we lived in Atlanta instead of Nashville and I was pregnant for both of those recording processes. It was just a lot more stressful and I felt a lot more pressure to sort of get it right and get it done quickly especially with Hundred More Years. That was a follow-up to a record that sort of exceeded everyone's expectations so I thought I got to do it again. I think you can sort of sabotage yourself by getting too inside your head.

    This time I just didn't feel any of that. We had just moved back to Nashville. It was the summertime. I had plenty of time and I just wrote three or four days a week which again has just not been the truth for the past couple of records. It's been really just fun and relaxing and for me it's always been my favorite part of the process, of the creative process because I'm sort of an introvert and artsy type. This was the first time since I think the first record that I really felt like this is fun again. Like this isn't just busyness and work. This is actually really awesome. I'm excited to share.

    Dan:                Have you noticed your audience transition at all?  From my perspective, those first couple records your audience was younger girls and now you're transitioning into a new stage in your life with the role of being a mom.  What I've heard from your music, it relates at different levels now and different areas.  Are you experiencing that transition of a wider audience because I think that your music still does speak to a younger demographic, but now you're capturing the hearts of moms and more.

    Francesca:     For sure.

    Dan:                Are you noticing that now?

    Francesca:     Yeah. It really is. It's interesting and every tour is a little bit different. I feel like that's where I see that the most. There's definitely still so many young girls, and I love that. There is something cool whenever I'm at the table and a girl comes up to me and she goes, "I love your music," and I sign her thing and her mom says, "I really love it too." It's like their little secret. I think that that's awesome. I love to be something that a mom and a daughter can listen to together and older sister can too. Hopefully, that audience is growing. I think this record will do that for them.

    Dan:                Is there a time that you can come to where you have seen your faith in action?  Or a time where you've felt a call that you needed to respond to?

    Francesca:     Is this the stories that you ... Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I have a great story to answer that question. Funny you should ask. Back this past summer we got an email from a little girl who, she is 13 now, but when she was 11 she started an organization called Project Jesus that ministers to girls and women in Uganda. She wrote this email and said basically, "Everyone's telling me that I'm crazy for writing you that you're too busy and you'll never write back, but I have this organization," kind of laid it all out and said, "And I'm hosting a benefit concert, or I'd like it to be a concert. It's a benefit luncheon on Orphan Sunday and I would love Francesca to be there. I totally understand if she can't. You'll probably not write me back, but maybe she could just send a signed CD or something."

    I remember just reading these words or I think my husband was reading them to me, and I was just so struck by her faith because she said, "Even though everyone's telling me that I'm crazy, the one thing I've learned over these past two years," I mean she's 13 years old, "Is that when we step out in faith, God does fix things." I was just so blown away by that because how many of us say that, but to actually believe it and act on it and sort of live that crazy faith life that she was living at 13 years old just blew me away. I kind of wanted to tell those naysayers that they were crazy and they were wrong. We just really felt like we needed to ... I felt like I needed to say yes.

    Actually I had a couple of other things that week that I just said, "We need to put these off. I want to be there for this girl." What ended up happening is a couple of days after I got that email, I was in the studio writing with a couple of friends and I was telling them that story and then they said, "What do you want to write about today?" I said, "I want to write about that. I want to write about Mallory." We wrote this song called Giant's Fall which is a song about Mallory. It's really just a song about don't be afraid of giants in your way. That whatever obstacles are facing you, God is with you and it doesn't matter if what you have seems like a little, he can turn it into a lot.

    I wrote this song for her, but didn't tell her. We've since recorded it and it's going to be on the record and back a couple months ago when we went to sing at the benefit we were nearing the end of the afternoon and I started explaining that I wrote this song, I just saw her mom crying, and she's crying and I'm crying. I got to play the song for this roomful of people the first time I ever played it. It was just a really powerful moment and just reminded me that when we're obedient, God does amazing things. That goes for Mallory. That goes for me writing the song. Being there, I think that if nothing else, I think she'll be able to look back and say, "That was one thing that I asked God for that He did." He's done many things like that for her, but how cool to be just like a tangible answer to prayer for someone even though it was little and I just showed up and sang a couple songs. It was cool.

    Dan:                The last time we talked, your label was circling in on trying to figure out which one of nine songs may be the first one to release to radio. Do you know which one has been selected for that?

    Francesca:     We do.  Yes.

    Dan:                Can you share it?

    Francesca:     Yes. It is called Write Your Story. They have already ... It doesn't go officially out for us until January where it's already been picked up by a couple of networks. It's amazing to see just the response to it. I think somebody up at The Fish heard it over the phone and said, "Okay, we're going to add it." That's just amazing to me and just sort of that affirmation that, "Okay, I think you picked the right song, and you're going in the right direction." I'm just so excited and people are already hearing it, but I haven't really announced it so I don't know what to say on Twitter except, "Thanks. I'm glad you like it," when people hear it. I can't wait for January and it's official.

    Dan:                Can you give us an idea what the song is about or what was behind it?

    Francesca:     Yeah, absolutely. It's funny because I didn't even realize it until somebody said something in passing after we had written the song that it was sort of like a follow-up to My Paper Heart which is "I've never been the same since you wrote your name on my paper heart." This song is just about basically saying, "God, I am an open book. I am just here, willing, available to do whatever it is that you call me to do. I want you to write your story on my heart." I think it will speak to so many different people I think to the girl who is waiting for her husband and saying, "God, write your love story for me." To the people who are just saying, "Okay, God, I know that you have something for my life and I don't know what it is, but I want to be open to whatever."

    Even for me, doing what I'm doing, it looks like you've got this path laid in front of you, but if God says, "No, I want you to stop all that and go do something else," I want to be able to hear His voice. I want His story at the end of my life to look back and say, "God, you wrote it. I just was there for the ride." It's a really fun song, but that's sort of the message or the story.

    Dan:                You're on your fourth record. You've established a career. I was talking to a co-worker of mine of what does it feel like as you transition from a place where you're an artist and you're trying to make it and you go from wanting people to hear your music and doing everything you can to get people to hear your music, to the place where now you're requested to come play music for them?  But they're now asking you instead of you asking them.  What is that journey like?

    Francesca:     Yeah.  It has been so interesting for me because at the beginning there it was like, "Okay, I don't know what this is going to look like."  Like you said, just playing for everybody, and then for even me it just all sort of took off really fast and I didn't know what to do and was just sort of saying yes to everything and then sort of slowed down again and I'm sort of I feel like just now finding my feet and like, "Okay, those past five, six years have been a little bit of a blur.  Now what do we really want to do?"  God has made it so that my husband is able to play drums for me and manage me and just be very focused and very intentional.

    I feel like for the first time this year it's like we're finding our legs.  But, yeah, it is amazing.  Anytime someone asks it's still like, "Oh, really?  We didn't have to call them to play a concert like they want us to come?"  It's always scary still.  It's just an honor and crazy when I think about it because there were so many years that were goodness gracious it was a very a awkward time.

    Dan:                Can you say who you're touring with yet?

    Francesca:     I think so.  Yeah.    We're doing the Hands of God tour with Sanctus Real in early spring and Hands of God is a song that I wrote with Matt Hammitt from Sanctus.  We're excited to take them out and do that tour.  I love those guys.  Then like five days after that ends, we go out on "The Bible: Son of God" tour, which we're really excited about and that is basically The Bible Miniseries was seen by millions of people.  It was mind-blowing.

    So Mark Burnett and his company have sort of said, "We want to take this experience into churches and venues around the country and sort of turn it into this interactive experience with the film, and with the artists, and with sets and all sorts of things that I'm not really even sure what the scale is like yet because it's the first year, but I'm really excited about that.  That will run up until, I guess, right before Easter, right before the record comes out.  We're really excited and it's going to be a busy year, but I'm ready for it.

    Dan:                Did you write that song?

    Francesca:     I didn't write it.  No.  I just sang on it and it's very beautiful.  So they've talked about things I know they're doing like an inspired by project, but beyond that, who knows?  Maybe it will make it to the live show.

    Dan:                Thank you so much for your time.

    Francesca:     Yeah.  Thank you.  It was fun.

    So, about her new album? Well, as stated above, Francesca returns with her brand new release, If We’re Honest.  Featuring the radio hit “Write Your Story,” this new CD perfects the soulful pop sound that began with her gold-certified debut, My Paper Heart, and its best-selling follow-up, Hundred More Years.  If We’re Honest is full of bright, upbeat songs and personal, thought-provoking ballads that will inspire, encourage and challenge you in your daily walk with God, and ultimately point you toward the hope that’s only found in Him.

  • The Most Read Interviews of 2013

    Posted on January 3, 2014 by Family Christian

    In 2013, we had the privilege of sitting down and talking with some great individuals that have had such a huge impact of people all over the world. The ten interviews below are just a sampling of who we talked with.

    These are the folks who have been challenged greatly, and in their challenges, they continue to challenge others. To love more. To serve more. To hope more. To rest more. To seek more. To study more.

    The ten interviews below are the interviews that were read the most. Shared the most. For that, we are thankful. We look forward to many more interviews and discussions in 2014.

    Amy Grant - The Wife/Mother/Singer/Songwriter

    There’s nothing like life experience to provide a deeper, richer emotional palette for a songwriter to draw from when crafting new music. For Amy Grant, it’s been 10 years since her last full studio album and it’s been a decade marked by soul-shaking milestones. As she’s always done, Grant has embraced both the triumphs and challenges, distilled them to their essence and poured the lessons learned into songs that ache with honesty and reverberate with gentle wisdom.

    How Mercy Looks From Here is the soundtrack of a life well-lived. “A lot of major life changes happened during these past few years.” Grant says. “So on this record, there’s zero filler. Every song has a real story behind it.”

    In chatting with Amy, I saw, again, that here is a woman of deep faith. Deep love. Love for family. Love for art. Love for food. Yes, food. And love for God.

    Read the full interview here.

    Phil Robertson. Father. Teacher. Theologian. Commander.

    If you have never heard of Phil Robertson or the Robertson boys, well, you must be living under a rock.  The Robertson family has taken American TV by storm, along with it the hearts of almost every person. Along with Phil, his wife Kay and their boys, the reality TV show Duck Dynasty has been a gathering place for the whole family. In other words, it's been a breath of fresh air.

    Phil Robertson was born and raised in Vivian, Louisiana, a small town near Shreveport. With seven children in his family, money was scarce and very early on, hunting became an important part of his life.

    Read the full interview here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Read the full Q&A here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    "There’s a saying that goes around that says 'If you crossover make sure you bring the cross over.' That’s definitely my heart and my aim. I want to remain distinct and authentically Christian in whatever realm I’m in. I don’t want people to walk away saying, 'Lecrae is a Christian because he said so. Lecrae is a Christian because they labeled him that.' But I want them to say, 'Lecrae is a Christian because I can tell by his life that he values Jesus.' That’s really what my aim is, for people to see I truly treasure and value Jesus and His Word. If [crossing over] happens then, by God’s grace, let their lives be changed."

    Read the full interview here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses
    physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now
    enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and
    rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet
    there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine
    style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Jon White and Cole Walowac have parlayed a long-term friendship and shared passion for music into one of the hottest careers in the industry. Despite their young age, the duo’s
    history is a lengthy one. “We were in the nursery in the same church,” Jon says.
    “We moved away to Massachusetts for a few years, Cole and I met back up in
    the same middle school and we started playing in the youth group band. Cole
    would play drums and I would sing and that’s how we started making music.”

    Read the full Q&A here.

    Michael Landon Jr. - Leaving a Legacy in Film

    Michael Landon Jr., son of the late television legend, Michael Landon, has been in the film business for over 25 years.  Educated at USC and a Directing Fellow graduate of the American Film Institute, he has worked in just about every capacity of the movie making process including film loader, 1st and 2nd assistant cameraman, stedicam operator, Director of Photography, apprentice film editor, production assistant, and actor.

    "Just trust in Jesus. Trust Him. Trust that He's going to bring you through to the other side, and don't try to do it on your own strength. And I mean that sincerely. This is not just to tell an audience of Christians. When I was 18 years old, I was a wreck. I was a wreck. My parents had divorced, and I was completely lost in the world. And I fought. I fought The Message. I fought it all the way, all the way. I didn't want to have anything to do with Jesus, nothing. Yeah."

    Read the full interview here.

    Mandisa - Finding Freedom by Overcoming

    Coming off her most successful album ever, Mandisa returned to the studio to record her new album, Overcomer. Her previous album, What If We Were Real, has sold over 270,000 albums and featured the breakout radio hits “Good Morning,” “Waiting For Tomorrow,” and the #1 hit, “Stronger.” The American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee continues to be a voice of encouragement and truth to women facing life’s challenges. Mandisa also continues to have unprecedented media exposure for a Christian artist including two recent appearances on Good Morning America.

    I sat down with Mandisa at a local coffee shop to talk about new music, coffee vs. tea, family and what it means to be an over-comer. What follows is a real conversation. Mandisa, some would say is a true artist. She is that for sure, but she is so much more. She is a warrior in a huge battle. She is a fighter - fighting for the truth of the Gospel. That can be summed up with one statement from her, "There is joy unspeakable!"

    Read the full interview here.

    Skillet. The Rock Band That Doesn't Quit

    Skillet recently made headlines when their last album, Awake, became one of just three rock albums to be certified platinum in 2012, forming an improbable triumvirate with the Black Keys’ El Camino and Mumford & Sons’ Babel. The news that Skillet had sold more than a million albums in the U.S. came as a shock to all but the band’s wildly diverse horde of fans, male and female, young and old—known as Panheads—whose still-swelling ranks now officially number in the seven-digit range. This remarkable achievement was announced just as Skillet was putting the finishing touches on their eagerly awaited follow-up album, Rise (Atlantic/Word).

    "When our last record came out, there was a guy who basically sent me an email saying he heard our song on NFL. “Hero” was playing and he liked it. He said he went to their website and found out who the band was, and bought the song. He said he loved the song and came to a show. One thing led to another, and basically this guy and his wife were both in the pornography industry. They both were filmmakers. The guy got saved and ended up leading his wife to it too. So they were saved now and got out of that industry and have gotten into church. And it was all from hearing our song on NFL. Stories like that are amazing! It’s something only God can do. And we are so honored He is using our music to do it."

    Read the full interview here.

    God's Unfolding Story In the Life of Laura Story

    t’s one thing to write compelling, heart-stirring, emotionally rich songs of worship, praise and honor to Christ. People have been doing it for centuries, forming the backbone of faith traditions the world over.

    It’s another thing entirely to bare your soul, share your vulnerabilities and risk criticism and career success by challenging the mold and daring to say that God is not necessarily a God of happy endings.

    Instead, He is the God of every story. This is what Laura Story is learning day by day.

    On her new album, God of Every Story, Laura becomes the most vulnerable. In Great God Who Saves and Blessings we certainly heard the heart of who Laura is, but it was within the established relationship of artist and listener. With her new title, she attempts to bring those walls down, bridging the separation.  God of Every Story is an album where we don't just see Laura's heart in some sort of abstract way - from a distance, but she asks us to join her in seeing what God is writing in Laura's life.

    Read the full interview here.

    The Jason Crabb Interview

    GRAMMY and DOVE Award-winning Jason Crabb has become one of the most respected names and voices in Christian music. Working alongside accomplished producers Jay DeMarcus (band member of Rascal Flatts), Ed Cash and Wayne Haun, Jason has delivered his sophomore studio solo recording, Love Is Stronger. A moving collection of down-home gospel and contemporary songs that feature Jason’s incomparable voice and heartfelt performance style, the release offers inspiring and challenging messages of comfort through the love of Christ that conquers all. Loved by audiences of every age and background, Jason Crabb is fast-becoming a prominent voice of hope for his generation and for generations to come.

    "I absolutely love the Southern style living. I'm kind of a—oh, I don't know what you would call it--a hybrid, I guess. I love all of it. Fried chicken, the fried pork chops, I'm in the woods a lot, and I love the outdoors. I even like to hunt a little. That’s just the way we grew up. I grew up in the swamplands of Kentucky, with coal miners and different ones and that's pretty much who I am. But then again, you know, I love nice cars (that I don't have!) and the finer things in life as well. But if it ever came down to it, give me the rocking chair, the front porch and a cup of coffee and I'm in a good place."

    Read the full interview here.

    Which interview stands out to you as a favorite?

  • Blog Summary for December 2013

    Posted on January 2, 2014 by Family Christian

    Here are some of the most popular blogs that have been read by our followers during the month of December.

    Michael Landon Jr. - Leaving a Legacy in Film

    Michael Landon Jr., son of the late television legend, Michael Landon, has been in the film

    business for over 25 years.  Educated at USC and a Directing Fellow graduate of the

    American Film Institute, he has worked in just about every capacity of the movie making process including film loader, 1st and 2nd assistant cameraman, stedicam operator, Director of Photography, apprentice film editor, production assistant, and actor.

    Read the full interview here.

     

    Phil Robertson. Father. Teacher. Theologian. Commander.

    If you have never heard of Phil Robertson or the Robertson boys, well, you must be living under a rock.  The Robertson family has taken American TV by storm, along with it the hearts of almost every person. Along with Phil, his wife Kay and their boys, the reality TV show Duck Dynasty has been a gathering place for the whole family. In other words, it's been a breath of fresh air.

    Phil Robertson was born and raised in Vivian, Louisiana, a small town near Shreveport. With seven children in his family, money was scarce and very early on, hunting became an important part of his life.

    Read the full interview here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    Read the full interview here.

     

    The Storm Inside - Sheila Walsh

    The chaos of life can be overwhelming, and women seem to get a heavier dose. Each day comes with its own pressures, heartaches and disappointments that slowly erode the joy, peace and closeness to God every woman needs. Chaos always feels like the enemy as it rages around us and inside us.

    In The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are, bestselling author and Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh invites you into ten life-changing, hope-filled transformations where hurt and heartache are divinely redeemed into joy and faith.

    Read the full post here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Read the full interview here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses
    physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now
    enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and
    rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet
    there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine
    style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Read the full interview here.

    Mandisa - Finding Freedom by Overcoming

    Coming off her most successful album ever, Mandisa returned to the studio to record her new album, Overcomer. Her previous album, What If We Were Real, has sold over 270,000 albums and featured the breakout radio hits “Good Morning,” “Waiting For Tomorrow,” and the #1 hit, “Stronger.” The American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee continues to be a voice of encouragement and truth to women facing life’s challenges. Mandisa also continues to have unprecedented media exposure for a Christian artist including two recent appearances on Good Morning America.

    I sat down with Mandisa at a local coffee shop to talk about new music, coffee vs. tea, family and what it means to be an over-comer. What follows is a real conversation. Mandisa, some would say is a true artist. She is that for sure, but she is so much more. She is a warrior in a huge battle. She is a fighter - fighting for the truth of the Gospel. That can be summed up with one statement from her, "There is joy unspeakable!"

    Read the full interview here.

    Skillet. The Rock Band That Doesn't Quit

    Skillet recently made headlines when their last album, Awake, became one of just three rock albums to be certified platinum in 2012, forming an improbable triumvirate with the Black Keys’ El Camino and Mumford & Sons’ Babel. The news that Skillet had sold more than a million albums in the U.S. came as a shock to all but the band’s wildly diverse horde of fans, male and female, young and old—known as Panheads—whose still-swelling ranks now officially number in the seven-digit range. This remarkable achievement was announced just as Skillet was putting the finishing touches on their eagerly awaited follow-up album, Rise (Atlantic/Word).

    As soon as the master was turned in to the studio to finish post production on the new album, I sat down with John Cooper

    Read the full interview here.

    Running on Empty - devotional from Suzie Eller

    We were in between moves, living out of suitcases. My husband was working in one state while I was staying in another to sell our home. I had a bad cold, and coughing had interrupted my sleep for nights. I was so tired that the rings under my eyes had rings under them.

    When my husband suggested we take time away from the packing, selling, and traveling, just to rest, I mentally listed the reasons we couldn't. How could we manage our many to-do's if we took time off?

    Read the full devotional here.

    Combating Loneliness - devotional from Samantha Evilsizer

    "My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted." Psalm 25:15-16 (ESV)

    Don't look his way, her heart and mind insist.

    She doesn't want to look. Then again, she does. Though my friend did not check the "Plus One" box on her RSVP card, she wishes she had. Why had she come to this party alone? Maybe then she wouldn't gravitate to him.

    He's reckless and destructive. My friend knows better, but he's the only one who can relate to her. Even so, she avoids eye contact, hoping to make him believe she doesn't need him anymore.

    Read the full devotional here.

    Which blog posts did you enjoy the best?

  • New Year - More Inspiration

    Posted on December 31, 2013 by John van der Veen


    During this time, every year, all of us look both backward and forward. Back at where God had brought us, and forward in thinking where the Lord will be bringing us. It's good to do. To have a plan. A plan with perspective.

    We know that our Heavenly Father has a specific plan for us. Mostly to be a worshipper. To be a person that lives "doxologically-minded." Beyond that, there is a lot of freedom.

    Here are some resources that may help in guiding us to that "closer walk with Him."

    Discover an innovative approach to achieving a healthy lifestyle in community. Built on a scriptural foundation, The Daniel Plan, from pastor Rick Warren, will help you learn how to optimize your health in the key areas of faith, food, fitness, focus and friends.

    The Daniel Plan teaches simple ways to incorporate healthy choices into a reader's current lifestyle and helps them understand the kind of foods God created to keep them fit and strong. These concepts encourage readers to deepen their relationship with God and offer inspiration as they make positive choices each and every day.

    Take an in-depth look at the first Christians and discover how generosity was the hallmark of the early church—how giving changed everything, drawing people to the most generous of givers, Jesus Christ. Generosity changed the world once; it could happen again. How to Be Rich: It's Not What You Have. It's What You Do With What You Have. by pastor Andy Stanley explores 1 Timothy 6:18, biblically redefining what wealth is, how to use it and helping you practice being rich so you will be good at it if you should ever be so fortunate.

    Is that how people in our communities would describe us today? How to Be Rich will force conversation and reflection around the topic of what to do with what we have. Jesus could not have been any clearer - it’s not what you have that matters. It’s what you do with what you have that will count for you or against you in the kingdom of heaven.

    Billy Graham’s devotionals are impactful and empowering. Now you can hear them paired with beloved hymns—recorded in a variety of styles, including symphonic orchestra to solo piano from beautiful vocals to the rich sound of a full choir. Exclusive gift set includes 100-song, 4-CD set with companion book of 100 devotionals from Dr. Graham.

    This exclusive gift set includes both Songs of Faith, 4-CDs of over 100 hymns coupled with and Words of Promise, a companion book of 100 devotionals from the writings of Billy Graham. Recorded in a variety of styles - from symphonic orchestra to solo piano and from soaring vocals to the rich sound of full choir - this treasury of music will inspire you every time that you listen. In addition, each hymn is paired with a devotional text to compliment the message of the song.

    Songs of Faith / Words of Promise celebrates the message and the power of Billy Graham's ministry throughout the years.

    After preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world for the better part of the last century, Billy Graham has one more message to share in My Hope America. In conjunction with his book, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation, Graham seeks to empower America to turn back to Christ and to eventually inspire the world through a genuine relationship with Jesus.

    Following a simple biblical model, My Hope America with Billy Graham combines the video programs with the power of personal relationships, encouraging people to share the Gospel message with friends, family, colleagues and neighbors through these videos featuring Billy Graham, dynamic music and testimonies.

    Learn how to be part of the effort to reach people across the United States with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This essential three-DVD resource—with more than seven hours of content—follows a simple biblical model using the life-changing testimonies and powerful message from Billy Graham.

    What is on your New Years list?

  • Angels We Have Heard on High - for King & Country

    Posted on December 17, 2013 by Family Christian

    for King & Country has taken the music world by storm. Their debut album, Crave, has become a favorite to so many. Their live show is simply ferocious.

    Their new Christmas EP, Into the Silent Night continues to be anything but silent. Their song arrangements have breathed new life into classic holiday songs.

    Check out their new animated video for Angels We Have Heard on High:

    What do you think?

    So celebrate the Christmas season with for KING & COUNTRY and listen to Into the Silent Night EP. Just in time for the holidays, this five-track compilation includes both studio and live versions of the original song "Baby Boy," as well as "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Little Drummer Boy."

    Bonus - check out our recent interview with Luke Smallbone from the band:

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