Family Christian Management Team Partners with Christian Businessmen to Acquire National Retailer
New Ownership Commits 100% of Profits to Faith-Based Charities.
Family Christian, the nation's largest Christian retail chain with 280 stores in 36 states, announced today that its management team has partnered with a group of Atlanta-based Christian businessmen to acquire the company from its private equity owners. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Under the new ownership, Family Christian's pledge is to contribute 100% of its profits to Christian causes and, specifically, ministries serving widows and orphans both in the U.S. and abroad. Family Christian has always been committed to providing resources for the Christian community, but the new ownership structure will allow the organization to not only equip Christians in their daily walk, but to increase the organization's impact by providing substantial financial support to faith-based causes.
"The management team and our investors are buying Family Christian because of our shared belief that the Company is uniquely positioned to be both a best-in-class Christian retailer and a significant source of financial support to help those in need,” said Cliff Bartow, President and CEO of Family Christian."While we have long been committed to giving to Christian causes, we felt called to multiply our impact. We have been on a journey for several years to find potential like-minded Christian owners who share our passion and calling, and believe it's the providence and sovereignty of God that we met and now partner with our new co-owners.”
The investment group is comprised of three Atlanta-based Christian businessmen, each of whom give substantially of their time, talent and treasure to Christian ministries, including several focused on orphan, foster care and adoption causes. Richard L. Jackson is the founder and CEO of Jackson Healthcare, the nation's third largest healthcare staffing company, and is deeply committed to bringing hope and opportunity into the lives of undeserved children. Jackson serves in a number of ways including as the Chairman of FaithBridge Foster Care. Larry Powell is the president of Powell Family Enterprises, LLC, a private equity investment company and is actively involved in a number of ministries, including serving as Chairman of the Board of Generous Giving. Michael Kendrick has used his success in investment banking as a catalyst for founding, developing, and funding organizations dedicated to Christian service, including Blueprint for Life and Ministry Ventures, a non-profit organization dedicated to launching new ministries.
"Each of these men have been blessed with professional success and share a mutual calling to give back to help those in need. This alignment of business acumen and Christian calling led them to the collective decision to join with us to acquire Family Christian and move it from an organization that contributes 10% of its profits, to one that contributes 100% of its profits to faith-based charities and ministries,” said Bartow."It is the hope of all involved that this transition can be a model of Christian business and ministry excellence that can be replicated by other organizations that wish to use their business resources to maximize Kingdom impact.”
Family Christian reported that while its ownership structure and financial purpose has changed, there will be no impact on its core operations, stores or staff. The company has ambitious plans to grow its revenue and increase financial support for faith-based ministries around the world. This includes maintaining store update efforts and looking at new product assortments and resources to better meet the lifestyle needs of customers. Family Christian will continue to carry a wide assortment of Christian products ranging from Bibles, gifts and home décor to books, children's and family resources.
"We are excited about what this ownership change means for our customers, staff and vendor partners who join us in the ongoing Christian pursuit of putting faith into action,” said Bartow."In many ways, we are returning to our roots as a Christian family-owned business focused on making a significant impact in helping those in need. Since our founding in 1932, we have established a relationship of trust and safety with our customers, while enjoying a reputation for providing great service and quality products. We intend to continue to uphold the high level of retail excellence, while applying the full operational and financial resources of the Company for the benefit of widows, orphans and foster children and Christian charities – all for God's glory.”
William Blair & Company, LLC acted as exclusive financial advisor to the investors.
In a world of facades, Lysa TerKeurst’s transparency is a breath of fresh air. That’s why people are gravitating to her newest book, Unglued. There’s something empowering about accepting you can’t keep it all together, but realizing that God loves you too much to let you keep losing it. Our recent interview with Lysa had us feeling like we were catching up with an old friend…
Family Christian: Hey Lysa, could you start by telling us a little about your upbringing?
Lysa TerKeurst: I was raised by a dad who was an atheist and a mom who went to church when she could. I had a chaotic upbringing in that my parents got divorced. When my mom got remarried, they started having more children. One of my sisters, (my half-sister, but still very much my sister) tragically died at a very young age because of some medication that a doctor gave her that was in too high a dose for her small body. So a lot of heartbreak, chaos and a lot of sadness in my upbringing, but at the same time I still very much remember my mom, even in the midst of so much brokenness being such a cheerleader for me. I always thought that I would grow up to be either a country music singer or the President of the United States. But as I got older I realized that I couldn’t sing and I didn’t like politics (laughs), so that proved to be a little problematic. But even so, my mom was such a cheerleader. She would always say, “Honey I think you sing great!” and “I still think you’d be a fantastic president,” so she’s just the ultimate encourager. I finally did find my niche in writing and then eventually in speaking. She’s continued to be such a wonderful encouragement to me. And so that’s a nutshell of how I got to be where I was. The country music singing and the road to the presidency didn’t really pan out like I thought it would when I was a small child (laughs), but I love what I do today.
FC: So who is your favorite country artist?
Lysa: Well when I was a little girl I was an absolutely huge Loretta Lynn fan. Of course she’s not really on the radio that much anymore so now I guess I’d say Taylor Swift, although I’m not sure people would qualify her as country music, but maybe. I like her music and maybe it’s because I have five teenagers and they like her music. So then in terms of Christian music I love good old fashioned praise and worship songs. Hands down that is my ultimate favorite. I’m so fortunate, I go to Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC and our worship team is amazing. That’s probably my favorite.
FC: Lysa would you mind giving us a glimpse into how you were introduced to Jesus?
Lysa: Yeah, well, like I said, growing up going to church was very hit or miss. We didn’t go on a consistent basis. One of my memories about going was when I was little (I was probably about 8 or so) and the pastor was one of the preachers that would bang his fist on the pulpit. Very animated. I just remember sitting there as a small child and thinking, he needs to try to relate to the younger generation a little better. And I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea, but I told my mom that I’d really like to go have a meeting with the pastor and she thought that I wanted to get baptized, but that’s not at all what I intended to speak with him about. When we got into his office I started telling him all of the mini-ways that I thought he could be a better communicator. And my mother was absolutely horrified, we didn’t really go back to that church after that. So we took a break from that for awhile – so when I say it was hit or miss, it was probably more misses than hits. Even when I was there I was always thinking of how people could do church a little bit more effectively and probably listening from the wrong vantage point. So I knew about Jesus but I can’t say that I understand what it meant to have a personal relationship until I was in my early 20s and it was after my baby sister died. I was very angry and running away from God and I wound up getting into a relationship where I got pregnant before I was married and made the really, really sad choice to have an abortion. There was something about the depth of brokenness that happened in my heart after the abortion that I cried out to God in complete desperation. Really what I was doing was begging God to let me die – to put me out of my pain. But God was so sweet and sent a person into my life that constantly put Scriptures in front of me. At first she really got on my nerves, but eventually the Scriptures started connecting deep in my heart. One night after reading one of her notes and pondering the truth of the verse that she put in front of me, I didn’t know how to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior so I just kneeled down right beside my couch in my little apartment and I just said yes to God. And my life has pretty much been a string of many days and years that followed of me continuing to say ‘yes’ to Him everyday.
FC: That’s powerful. Thank you for sharing. Let’s switch gears a little and talk about your family’s story of adoption. Those who are familiar with you have probably already heard it, but could you tell us a little bit about how you and your husband decided to start down that path of adoption? And then how did that turn into impacting not just your family, but your faith community too?
Lysa: Well, I did not have any plans to adopt because we already had three little girls. My husband and I felt very complete and I kinda always thought that adoption was for people who A. Either wanted lots of kids and had a real international perspective of family and maybe a missionary family or B. Families who couldn’t have children. And we weren’t either of those! We were an everyday family living in America with three little girls just trying to get through each day. My kids were small at the time (they were 9, 8 and 4). Life was very busy, very full. We didn’t feel like I was a good enough mom to have more children – I felt like I was barely hanging on, but the Lord directed us to go to a concert one night because one of my daughters was in Brownies (a division of Girl Scouts) [and they were] studying Liberia, so we thought it would be a good cultural experience for her. In the middle of the concert the Lord clearly said to my heart “Two of those boys are yours.” And after the concert two of the boys walked up to me, wrapped their arms around me and called me ‘Mom.’
FC: And you had never met them?
Lysa: No. I had never met them before. So it was a crazy thing. I never thought my husband would agree that we should adopt two teenage boys from Africa. It sounded scary and unreasonable, I didn’t think we could afford it, I didn’t think it was safe for my girls, I mean there were a lot of obstacles and lots of fears. And really, they were healthy fears. I mean, when you have three little girls, it doesn’t sound reasonable to adopt two teenage boys from the other side of the world. But God confirmed over and over and over to me and my husband that this was part of His unique plan for us. So while it might not make sense for most situations, God just assured us by paving the way, opening every single door, helping us to meet every single obstacle. He really calmed our fears by sending people into our lives who would speak truth to us. It was really pretty amazing how God just said, ‘maybe this isn’t an assignment that sounds reasonable or rational for anybody else, but it is my assignment for you.’ And so we agreed to adopt and then our friends all thought we were crazy. But we decided to have a concert to invite all of our friends just to get to know our boys a little bit better and to see them sing as part of the last stop that their choir was going to do. At that concert all of our friends who thought we were so crazy, the Lord moved in their hearts and they eventually all came forward and decided to adopt the rest of the boys in the choir, and then we ran out of choir boys! So then mission trips were formed and they went over to Liberia and more and more kids were brought back. As of now, we’ve had over 45 kids from those orphanages adopted into the families of our community.
The TerKeurst family
FC: That is unbelievable. Is it primarily people within your church or outside of your church too?
Lysa: Yeah, it’s outside of our church. And really, it’s even outside of our community now too. There have been many children that family members in other cities or states have adopted, so it’s expanded out probably more than we’ll ever know. I mean, those 45 kids are just the ones that we know about, but I’d imagine that there have been many, many others that have been adopted, because we were on the Oprah show and the Today Show. We could look at the rate of adoption from Liberia into America, it grew dramatically. And we didn’t know all of those people, but we definitely saw a spike in interest after our story went so public.
FC: We don’t know if you knew that here at Family Christian our calling is James 1:27, to look specifically after the orphan and the widow, so we have this huge campaign both inside and outside of our building to bring awareness and action. We are all about foster care and adoption. So to hear stories like yours is fantastic, near and dear to our heart.
Lysa: Yes, I spent some time looking at your website, so I could understand fully what you’re doing. It’s called The James Fund, right?
FC: Yes, The James Fund is our non-profit organization, and what they primarily do is help to seed other organizations and defray some of the cost of adoptions, but also to help build housing and make lives better domestically and abroad. We’re also part of the Nehemiah Project whose number one goal is to eradicate the foster care system within the United States. It’s bound and determined to find homes within the faith community for all of the kids within our foster care system. We believe that this is the church’s responsibility, and we want her to rise up and take initiative in this arena.
Lysa: That’s amazing, I love that.
FC: It’s a tall task, but we’re excited to see what God does with it. Ok, let’s talk about your new book Unglued. There are a few topics covered in your book and we were hoping you could comment on a couple of them. First ‘the working mother’s balancing act.’ You mentioned that “Women need to lean on other women to support them so they can let down their guard and become transparent.” How do you see that in your own life?
Lysa: I definitely think motherhood – no matter if you’re a working mom or stay at home mom – is really tough sometimes. It can really leave us each day with a sense of wondering if we’re doing it right. You know, it’s a long term investment. You don’t see big returns in the short term. Raising a child can easily pull you into being hyper-focused on the tough everyday moments of life. The toddler that doesn’t want to be potty trained and the infant that won’t stop crying and the middle schooler who is just getting into these hormonal fluxes – happy one minute and so upset the next that you can’t even figure out what happened, then teenagers who are really trying to push the limits – I don’t want to be a child, and yet I need a parent, but I’m not yet an adult. It’s all these things, I mean; it can be really hard on a woman’s heart especially when the everyday is filled with moments that don’t feel so wonderful. We love our kids, we treasure our kids, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the chaotic emotions around trying to understand how to raise a child. So in Unglued, I really go right into a big issue that mom’s face, women face, even a lot of men face, and that is: how do we react in that moment of conflict? There’s going to be lots of conflicts that we face every single day, but what do we do in that split second when we’re just about to react to that thing that’s happening? The relationship conflict, or the situational conflict, or the stresses of everyday life that pull at our emotions. And so in Unglued, I really help people see that it is possible to exercise self-control in that split second before we react to the circumstances of our life.
For the purpose of people better understanding themselves, I list out four different reaction types; there are two kinds of ‘Exploders’ and two kinds of ‘Stuffers.’ The Exploders need to add into that split second moment a pause and a dose of perspective. And in Unglued I show them how to do this. And then the Stuffers need to let go of pretending and let go of approving and I show them how to do those in the split second right before they react. It’s really amazing to see what kind of feedback we’ve been getting from people – not just moms. Certainly we’ve been hearing from moms because at the heart of who we are, we want to raise our kids right and be good examples, but sometimes the chaos of everyday emotion or circumstances make us question if we’re being good examples for our kids. We have been getting letters of marriages being saved, moms feeling like they’re becoming better moms, friendships being saved because people are having kind but honest conversations for the first time in their friendships, even work relationships are being repaired as people are learning how to better handle their reactions in the workplace. So it’s really cutting across all of the circumstances and situations that people face and equipping them to have better reactions. If you equip people to have better reactions, you’ll equip them to have better relationships.
FC: You’ve said that the purpose of Unglued is not to get people to a place where they are perfect at keeping their emotions in check; the goal is “imperfect progress.”What would you say to the woman who looks at your life or people on a talk show who appear to have it all together and think “they have a perfect life, but mine is a complete disaster”? How do you address this person who sees their imperfections, or their messy house and compares it with this pedestal of perfection?
Lysa: Well yeah, I’m one of those people because I look at other people all of the time and I think man, they’re so much better at life than me. So I am the woman who has the pile of laundry and the dirty kitchen (laughs) and the five kids who are sweet but sometimes disrespectful. It’s easy for me to compare myself to other people and really start feeling down because I compare their perfect outsides to my very imperfect insides. But here’s what the Lord’s really been teaching me: We aren’t supposed to strive for perfection everyday. If we were perfect, we’d have no need for Jesus. And it’s through our imperfections that we really feel the pull toward our need for a Savior. So the imperfections serve a wonderful purpose if we’ll let them. Now, do we always need to be striving to be better? Absolutely. But I encourage people in Unglued, to seek to make imperfect progress. Seek to get a little better each day. Wrap each step in grace and be okay that imperfect progress is at least moving forward, it doesn’t have to be perfect…
FC: Thank you Lysa so much for talking with us today and for your insight. Keep up the good work, and we’ll keep helping to get the message out.
Hearing From God In Your Daily Life
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"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)
Just because something great happens doesn't mean it is from God. I know this is true because I know how to manipulate and make great things happen.
Honestly, I hate that word—manipulate. It rubs something rough and grainy into the softer places of my heart.
But there it is. And I know it. Because sometimes I do it. I manipulate.
I know how to sell an idea I think is really great.
I know how to go the extra mile.
I know how to strategize to make my plan seem like a great strategy.
And not that any of this is intrinsically bad. Some of these things are great qualities God can certainly use in good ways.
But what if I use these skills and talents outside God's will? To push past God's timing, God's direction, God's plan to teach me stuff in the process?
Sometimes I think He lets us push past His better plan to experience the consequences of our headstrong attitude. Boy do I know all about that. I've jumped headfirst into something I thought I wanted so much, only to find extreme stress, fear, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of regret.
It's great to know how to sell an idea. But it's not great to do it outside God's will.
It's great to go the extra mile. But it's not great to do it out of a desire to secure what I want—rather than out of a desire to serve another.
It's great to strategize and have a plan. But it's not great if that plan stretches me so I seek my desires more than God's desires.
I am learning. Learning to not always push so hard. Run so fast. And desire so much more.
Recently I had the opportunity to be considered for something huge. Really huge.
And I knew how to secure it.
I knew the words I could use to sell my idea. I knew I could go the extra mile with my pitch and look impressive. I knew a strategy that could be implemented and the plan to propose.
But what I didn't know is if this was God's plan or my desire.
If I knew for sure it was God's plan, all my efforts wouldn't be manipulation—they'd be smart. But I didn't know.
Therefore, all my pushing and plotting were manipulation. So, I stopped. I backed off. I stepped aside.
And then I doubted. It was hard to watch the opportunity possibly slip away. But I reminded myself that this was a place where my trust in God has to step in. This was one of those times when a deeper faith could be found.
I can rest in the assurance that if something is to be, it isn't up to me. It's up to God. It's not that I just sit back and don't pursue things. I do. But I give what I can give without manipulation. And then I wait for God to give what only He can give. So, if He makes it happen without all my chaotic self-effort, then I will know it is His best.
And if it doesn't happen, I will thank Him for saving me from myself.
Dear Lord, I am so grateful for Your everlasting love and vision for my life. Help me to embrace the fact that Your plans are so much greater than mine. Humble my heart in the moments when I try to maintain control so that I can fully serve You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Sometimes it's easier to follow our gut response, rather than wait on God's direction. In her book Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst shares great wisdom on embracing God's ways, not ours. Click here to purchase a copy.
Reflect and Respond:
Do you ever catch yourself manipulating past God's plans to secure your own desire?
God wants you to give up your own agenda and trust in His plans for your life! Set aside some time every day to reflect on Bible verses dedicated to this particular issue. Having this daily reminder of God's sovereignty will help you to recognize when your own desires are taking precedence over His will.
Psalm 9:10, "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." (NIV)
Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love." Ephesians 4:1-2 NASB
The Christian life is a step-by-step walk of faith on the path of humility. The goal is not to get ahead of God with fleshly footsteps or to lag behind in fearful procrastination. It is a balance where behavior is molded by beliefs and doing flows from being. A walk with Jesus leads to a talk with Jesus--prayer. It is beautiful to know the Lord longs to linger in lock step with the ones He loves.
We walk in humility because this is the cadence of Christ. Our heavenly Father is not interested in us sprinting through life void of the Spirit's power. On the contrary, He smiles when He sees His servants wait on Him to accompany them to the next opportunity. In the process, a walk of humility takes the time to recognize surrounding relationships: the needs, wants and dreams of others.
"Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” Daniel 4:37 NASB
Are your steps pleasing to the Lord? Are you walking with or away from Jesus? Each of your steps are important because they build on a sequence of wisdom or foolishness. Each step of obedience reveals another footprint in God's will. You may not understand where the final step will find you, but you can be confident of the next step. Thus, in humble submission take the necessary next step in raising your teenager and entrust their ultimate outcome to the Lord. Humility walks with the One who has already won.
Pride is dismissed by the patient tolerance of your humility. Because you love others, you trust others. Pride walks alone, but an accountable community accompanies humility. Any autonomy you may experience is required by humility to automatically and voluntarily submit to wise counsel. Thus, you walk in the light of God's love that exposes and disposes the dark deeds of pride. As you walk in humility a pace, powered by grace, sustains you!
"Does he not see my ways and count my every step?" Job 31:4
Prayer: Heavenly Father, humble my heart to walk in obedience with You.
"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30 (NIV)
In the late '70s I sat
with my folks in a hospital room in the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. The doctors who had just completed tests on my eyes were explaining what it meant to have retinitis pigmentosa. They described how I would slowly lose my remaining sight and eventually be totally blind. My mind raced and my heart welled with confusing emotions. I was silent in that hospital room that day.
A few days later at my next visit, I only wish I had been silent.
We went back to the sa
me room with some of the same doctors. This time it was to help me get on a rehabilitative program. One doctor described how large, thick glasses might help with the little vision I still had. Another discussed walking with a cane. Another doctor told me how important it was for me to have an over-sized
magnifying glass and advised me to use a flashlight to find my locker at school.
They stepped out of the room, and with full adolescent belligerence I ranted to my parents. "I will not wear any of that junk or use that embarrassing stuff! No way! I will not look weird!"
Just as I finished my outburst, the door opened and my new rehab counselor "rolled" in. Being legally blind, I couldn't see him well enough to detect what my mom described to me later.
He was blind in one eye, his face was disfigured, he was missing an arm, and his legs evidently weren't functional. What I could detect, even without sight, was that his voice was only audible by using an apparatus that made it sound synthesized.
Unfortunately he arrived just in time to hear my tirade about looking weird.
I was mortified by how self-centered I acted. I was humiliated by my own smallness and pride. I know he was a professional who most likely understood my immature response, but he also was a man who had lost his former physique and abilities, and who probably felt "weird" when he looked in the mirror. I was so ashamed.
I was only a few days into learning to live with blindness when I received my first lesson: when I am most self-aware, I am most miserable. Even today, as a 48-year-old woman, I still feel tinges of self-pity, self-awareness and self-absorption.
"I don't feel that's fair to me."
"Do I look okay in these jeans?"
"I don't think she likes me."
"I look weird when I can't make eye contact. I don't want people to notice."
"I need, I want, I wish."
When a big "I" is the center of our thoughts and feelings, we truly are miserable!
Perhaps that's because "I" is also in the center of pride and sin. Ouch!
Jesus said in John 12:24 that "... unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone." Alone is a miserable place to be.
"But," Christ continued, "if it dies, it bears much fruit." (ESV) The principle is this: when it is all about us, we are like that seed that is unwilling to die. Consequently, we find ourselves alone in the prison of our own self-awareness. But, when we are willing to turn our big "I" into a little "I," we are then ready to experience real life, satisfying life.
God is teaching me that true self-esteem comes from being reduced—less of me, more of Him. As I am willing to relinquish my sense of self—self-pity, self-awareness and self-absorption—I am finding simplicity in an identity that comes from His life in me, rather than an identity based upon me, myself and I.
Today, let's choose to be more full of God than we are of ourselves.
Dear Lord, I want to decrease so You will increase in me. May I be like a seed, willing to die, so I can truly live and give life to others. May my letter "I" not be in pride or sin, but may it be found in Christ. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Ways to shrink your letter "I":
1. Focus on someone else's needs. Yours will feel less obvious.
2. Grant someone else the attention you are trying to get for yourself.
3. Begin your day with this question, "How may I serve You today, Lord?"
Matthew 22:37-39: "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (NIV)
Psalm 27:8: "My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek." (NIV)
Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (NIV)
“The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.” Ruth 3:10
Affective affirmation engages the heart and soothes the soul. There is an emotional tipping point that takes place when someone brings acceptance, approval and comfort to a conversation. It builds trust in relationships and moves friendships toward vulnerability. Men long for approval from their wives and women desire attention from their husbands. Affirmation from those who know us the most—means the most. Their support provides security for us.
We all want to feel special—we want to be the most important person to the one we love the most. This position of significance positions a relationship for success. The effect of affective affirmation is a healthy environment at home and at work. Negative brow beating and intimidation may get a short-term result at the expense of long-term commitment. We need affirmation like a tender plant needs nurturing. Affirmation grows relationships.
“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves. How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant.” Song of Songs 1:15-16
Do you intentionally affirm another’s value to you? Do you treat them how you want to be treated and do you grace them with words of significant meaning? The Lord has you in a seat of influence during good and bad times. Therefore, use your role of supervisor, peer, parent, spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister or friend to free others with your approval. Speak into their lives by admitting your struggles and airing your concerns. Affirm them.
Most of all seek effective affirmation from your heavenly Father. When you stumble and fall—He picks you up. When you sin—He forgives. When you forget—He remembers. When you lose hope—He gives hope. When you are weak—He is strong. When you are unsure—He is sure. When you are afraid—He is your peace. Your Father in heaven cares about you. When He sees you, He sees His son Jesus—you are 100% affirmed in Him!
“I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly.” Psalm 85:8
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your affirmation in Your son Jesus.
"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Romans 15:4 (NASB)
We were out of options. The day the Sherriff's car pulled into our driveway, I knew what was coming. After a series of unfortunate events, things had gone from bad to worse to hopeless.
Her friendly, official, sheriff smile did nothing to relieve the emotional discomfort of this dreadful moment. The neighbors peeked through their blinds to see what was happening.
As she handed me the papers, I took them with tears in my eyes.
Looking at the baby in my arms and toddler peeking out from behind me, this kind woman genuinely said, "I'm sorry."
"Thank you," I whispered, as I slowly closed the door.
I sat down on our stairs and read through the official documents. Elaborate lawyer terms, forceful sounding laws I didn't understand, and words bolded in dark ink conveyed the dreadful news; "You must vacate the premises within thirty days."
It was unwanted and unavoidable. It felt shameful and embarrassing. And the foreclosure of our home was an aching process of letting go.
The carefully painted mustard-yellow walls: I would miss them so much. How would I survive without the daily afternoon play dates with my neighbor and her children? And what about all those hot dog dinners my husband and I ate to save pennies to buy this sweet home?
So much was about to be taken from us. Just like that.
I didn't understand why God would allow us to walk this humbling road. We had trusted Him, why hadn't He provided?
Any hope I had left in God faded fast. It wasn't something I could muster back up on my own. No, I needed others to fill the gap for me.
In scripture Paul wrote, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4 NASB)
I learned during this devastating season, when our hearts become grounds of broken dreams, we may need to turn to the hope others have found.
The Bible holds deep historical roots of hope waiting for us to uncover.
We can find hope because ...
Abraham and Sarah found hope by believing while it seemed impossible for them to get pregnant, it was possible for God. (Genesis 15, 17-18)
We can find hope because ...
Ruth and Naomi found hope by moving their lives forward after losing their family. (Ruth 3)
We can find hope because ...
Mary and Martha found hope when they saw Jesus could do anything, including raising their brother from the dead. (John 11)
As I closed the door to our home for the last time, I accepted this place of brokenness. But I also made a choice to find hope no matter what.
I found hope through the eyes of wonder my daughters had as they explored our new rental house. I found hope when my mom helped me unpack our boxes and organize toys. I found hope when my husband's heart drew closer to mine through this difficult experience.
Hope is at the core of who we are as followers of Jesus. As we allow hope to flow into us, it will flow through us even in the most difficult circumstances.
If you feel hopeless in this season of your life, will you look back at those who had hope in Scripture to give you courage to have hope for your future? Hope, it heals our broken dreams.
Dear Lord, thank You for the hope You give us to heal the broken places in our lives. May we have the strength to find hope in all the places that feel hopeless today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
If you are feeling hopeless, reach out to someone and ask her to share a time where God has given hope.
What is an area in your life you are seeking hope from God? Leave a comment today and let's share our hope struggles.
1 Peter 1:3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (NIV)
Romans 5:5, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (NIV 1984)
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
I struggle with consistently placing my hope in God alone. I say He is my support, but then I add a secular safety net as a back up to my belief in Jesus. So, my prayer is to hope in God without any worldly props. When He is the sole focus of my faith then trust in Him trumps any whispering idols in the temporal. Christ’s hope is all I need to persevere though pain, change and challenges. His hope anchors my soul in His unchanging grace.
There are many gods who offer fleeting hope. The god of more money offers financial hope. The god of bigger government offers entitlement hope. The god of blind loyalty offers relational hope. The god of harder work offers security hope. However, all hope not founded on God is false and disappoints. Hope in heaven gives peace on earth. And any earthly competitor for the Lord’s hope is powerless. God’s hope generates real joy!
“Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, LORD our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this.” Jeremiah 14:22
Is your hope in God conditional or unconditional? Is it merely words or the conviction of your heart? You know your hope is all in with the Almighty when your life overflows with the power of the Holy Spirit. Bad news only emboldens you to look for the Lord’s creative solutions to sticky situations. You hand over people out of your control over to Christ’s control. Your focus on heavenly hope silences howls from the hounds of hell.
Therefore, hope in God, the Savior of your soul. He is your sole provider who needs no supplementary support. Intensified belief in Jesus is your back up plan. Thus, you embrace hope—an unchanging attribute of God. He is the object and author of your hope. Joy comes from being justified by Jesus. His peace produces perseverance. When Christ’s hope has its way—He shows you the way. Open hope’s door; it hinges on God!
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Prayer: Heavenly Father, my hope is in You—not the competing hopes of this world.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Sure it sounds simple, but grabbing hold of that idea’s roots has revolutionized the way Bob Goff lives. He’s cracked a simple code for finding God’s direction for your life with his new book Love Does. How does God feel about (fill in the blank)? And what are you good at? Cool, now go.
So what exactly does love do? We caught up recently with Bob to ask just that…
Family Christian: Hey Bob, could you start by telling us a little about how you grew up?
Bob Goff: I was raised in California. If you read the book you’ll know that I slanted all [of my answers to] aptitude tests to make it absolutely clear that I was supposed to be a forest ranger because I wanted to live in the Redwoods and hang out. Then I went to the Redwoods and I saw where forest rangers live on cots, the neon lights and all that and how they give people tickets for parking in the wrong places (laughs) and I said, I’m out. So I moved to southern California (totally disenchanted) to just surf and went to San Diego State and had a terrific time. And it was in that whole process that I bumped into this outfit called Young Life and they do just a terrific job with high school kids. At the time that I first got acquainted with them I was in high school and it made all the difference for me.
FC: So how many redwood trees did you drive through?
FC: Ya know, because that’s a thing. Where you can veer off highway 101 and drive through a huge tree…? It’s like a side show or something…
Bob: Right, with a big paper mache Paul Bunyan or something? (laughs) Yes! I went to school at Humboldt State because I was going to be a forest ranger and I used to drive by that place all the time. So for all those years I drove by, I never stopped until just a couple of years ago. My son and his friend and I started in Mexico and we bought some Harleys and said, we’re going to drive all the way up to this place we have in Canada. And when we got up to northern California we actually drove through that stupid tree. (laughs)
FC: Good for you. I grew up in Oregon and actually had a similar experience. My dad decided to lasso all of us together, threw us in a van and we all drove down to Southern California to Disneyland.
Bob: Oh! My favorite place in the whole world! How was your trip?
FC: Oh, it was great – but it was many years ago…
Bob: Isn’t it a great place? Actually a pastor from Uganda came a couple of days ago, and I think he was thinking we’d meet in a boardroom and wear suits and ties and everything. And I said, “do you want to go to my office?” And he said, “Yes.” So I put him in the car (laughs) and we drove to Disneyland because my office is on Tom Sawyer Island. It just is. I mean, Disneyland doesn’t think it’s mine, but I think it’s mine. So we met out there. It was terrific!
FC: Bob, so tell us about your transition from Young Life to Restore International. When was it that you saw, perhaps, a greater need going on around you?
Bob: I really kinda backed into it because every outfit that I wanted to work for, Young Life, World Vision, International Justice Mission, it seemed like everybody didn’t want me to work for them. (laughs) I got out of college, and I’d raised all my support so I asked Young Life if I could go on staff and they said no. And I thought “rats!” (laughs) I knew it wasn’t because they couldn’t afford me because it wasn’t going to cost them anything, and then I went to these other outfits – really doing terrific things all over the world, and because no one would have me I just felt like – I’m going to make a difference and I’m not going to be head-faked by all of these inexplicable no’s. I’m just going to pick something and do it. It’s like picking a fight. You don’t want to pick a fight with just the guy at the deli, [you want to] pick a fight somewhere in the world and just run towards it. Run because the fight is going to go on without you if you miss it. So that’s where Restore International was born. It was born out of a desire to make a difference. A lot of people see things like this as “open doors” or “closed doors” and I don’t really see Jesus that way. I see these doors [as situations where] you sometimes have to find another way in. So we started Restore International and started chasing bad guys in India using India’s laws to prosecute them and we ended up in Uganda shortly after that (probably ten years ago) and started making differences there.
FC: I’m thinking about all of these organizations saying no to you. What would you say to a person who is in similar shoes? What does a person do when they’re in a world of no’s and they’re beating their head against the wall because they thought they were pursuing things they thought God was calling them to?
Bob: I think that is such a common feeling – I’ve sure had that as well. But I just decided I’m done spending my life doing the things that I’m able to do. Because (like a lot of people) I’m able to do a whole bunch of things. And so [why not] try to tease out what it is I’m made to do? And then to do a bunch of that. So we go to organizations (and there’s nothing wrong with organizations, they’re terrific) but Jesus didn’t have one. He said, let’s just go do stuff. Love God. Love people. And do stuff. That’s my punch list everyday. (laughs) Ya know, somebody says, what’s on your to-do list? And I tell them the same thing, Love God. Love people. Do stuff.
So when you identify with an organization and you want to do stuff [but] you get this inexplicable ‘no’ – a lot of people get off the end and think, Well, God must have said no to me. No! The organization just said no to you. Find what it is that you were made to do and get on it! Go do what you were made to do. So for me, I knew that justice was something that has always been a big part of my life. And I know that Jesus is nuts about kids. He doesn’t seem to think much of lawyers (laughs) which really lands close to home, but He’s nuts about kids and loves justice. So I said, why don’t we go do that? And do a lot of it? And if you get a no from somebody, don’t say, ‘I’m going to take this as some big cosmic signal.’ No, you just got a no, deal with it. Just go to the next step. I never know what all of the steps are but I do know the next step. So the next step for me was to engage a country (just pick one, there’s nothing mystical about it, just pick a fight), and then run towards it. What’s the next step? Buy a ticket to Uganda. What’s the next step? Find a judge. Where do you do that? The courthouse. Ya know, the next thing you know you’re sitting in the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I know that’s nuts, but I think Jesus does that to blow our minds. He doesn’t want us to think that we’ve got all of these plans laid out. I love that Jeremiah passage [when God says] – the plans I’ve got are good. And I keep doing my plans. The problem with my plans is that all my plans work and I get these puny little returns that go with my plans, but when you do this cannonball – did you do a cannonball when you were a kid? Where you just grab your knees and jump in? I love that! So when I think of faith, I’m thinking of a cannonball. You pick a fight – wherever it is, in the Congo or down the street from you and you run toward that. I love that scripture in Joshua of him headed toward the fight and he meets this big angel with the sword drawn, and I think Joshua had some lawyer in him because he said, ‘whose side are you on?’ And the angel said ‘neither, take off your shoes.’ I love that! So like, instead of picking sides on this thing, keep picking Jesus and keep running toward the fight.
So that’s a long way around the bush but I just decided I wasn’t going to get head-faked by an inexplicable no and I just did the next thing, which was doing justice things in Uganda. From there we ended up trying cases. I bought the entire Ugandan law library – both books. (laughs) And I just tried cases, and people were like – were you invited? And I said, ‘no, but as followers of Jesus we’re invited to everything!’ (laughs) It doesn’t seem polite but I’m telling you, you could show up at my house for dinner, man, you’re invited. And I think Jesus is saying that about all these fights out there – you’re invited. Bring your hook shot; bring what you’re good at. I’m good at law stuff, so bring that. So when we tried the first hundred cases of kids [who were] stuck in jails without a trial, we dropped off 98 at home, with all of the charges resolved. And I go, Man! I don’t need to have a memo from God on that. I know God loves them and justice, and then there’s this idea that you and I can be part of that…? Ya-hoo.
FC: So whose responsibility is justice? Is it the state’s or the church’s?
Bob: I’d say it’s all of the above. We each are stakeholders. It’s government and the various people in positions of power – they have a responsibility. But I think of the church as this bride of Christ, who is incredibly capable of doing amazing things. And so where we see injustice, we come, not with fists clenched but with palms up. And we say, what’s the next thing we can do? And the stuff we do is the stuff we were made to do. I know that sounds so circular, but for you, what you were made to do, is different than what I was made to do. But instead of spending all of our time having Bible studies about what we were made to do, go do stuff and you’ll figure out what you were made to do, because you’ll be great at some things and you’ll be terrible at others. And I say, do less of what you’re terrible at and more of what you’re good at. I don’t know if that sounds too simple, but it’s been working for me.
FC: No, I don’t think that sounds simple at all. I think it actually sounds quite profound. It seems that sometimes we can over complicate our value system so much it almost prevents us from doing anything good.
Bob: Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting together with men and women in small groups around Scripture and letting it just wash over us, but for me, I’ve been meeting with the same ten guys for like 15 years now, but we don’t have a Bible study every Friday, we have a Bible doing. We say, let’s not just agree with Jesus about this stuff, let’s do something – so what’s the next step? You know those [studies] where you’re reading about Lazarus and he’s raised from the dead and they say well, dead in Greek means this, and dead in Hebrew means this, and dead in Aramaic is…? And then the compelling question is “when was the last time you were dead?” (laughs) and I’m thinking like NOW. (laughs) And what I want to say is, let’s go do something! Let’s either head to the morgue or let’s pick the next thing to read that we’re actually going to do something with because Jesus never got all of the disciples together and said, guys I just want you to agree with Me. So I mean, I get it, Jesus won’t think we’re swell if we do a bunch of stuff, He already thinks we’re swell. He’s just nuts about us, our pictures are in His wallet. So now that we’re done with that can we just go do whatever the next thing is… So for some person, doing stuff with the court systems and justice, that would be a train wreck, it would be the worst thing they could ever do because it isn’t what they’re made to do. They’d be able to do it, but it wouldn’t be what they were made to do.
[What if the] body of Christ said, “What are you good at?” And people responded, “Well, I’m good at this”, and we said, “Ok, are you doing a lot of that?” “Well not really,” so ok, “Why don’t you do some more?” It probably wouldn’t feel so complicated. And don’t ask guys like me, ask my wife “What is it that Bob’s good at? And what does he stink at?” And she’ll know. I would say to all men, listen to your brides! The stuff that they’re saying is really good. These are words of truth to you. Maria Goff and I have been married for 26 years, 1 month and 23 days, I kid you not, I’m counting. I spent so much time trying to get that girl to like me that I’m going to count every single day. (laughs) And you know what she’s been telling me the whole time? Bob, work the plan. She never tells me what the plan is, but I know what she means when she says that. It means like all this stuff that Scripture says you’re supposed to be about? Do that! Ya know that stuff you were made to do? Do that. And this stuff over here on the other side that you kinda stink at, or it kinda feeds your pride – not that. So it’s really been terrific. I’m so glad she got dropped into my life and tells me to ‘work the plan.’ I think that’s really a beautiful way of viewing the Christian faith. Jesus is saying work the plan. You want to know what the plan is? Read what I wrote about it and then go do it. Then overlay it with the stuff you’re good at and do less of what you stink at. And as to your pride and selfishness, try to arrest that. As to compassion, try to enhance it. And that, that’s the plan.
FC: Before we talk about your new book Love Does, we’re curious what you think about the church here in the United States. Are we in a healthy state?
Bob: Oh I’m nuts about the church. Have you ever gone to a wedding and brought a card with you that says “7.5” like the Olympics? (laughs) And as the bride passes by you say, Oh, I’ve seen better…? Not at all! We’re the bride of Christ, and what makes the bride look so great, at least at the weddings I’ve gone to is, not only is she dressed up nice, but the groom – you just sense his anticipation. He knows everything about her and he picked her and he said, I’m in. So when I think about the church, I’m just nuts about her. She’s looking good, she’s got this Groom that’s just crazy about her. Does the church have all kinds of problems? You bet, because it’s made up of people like me, so I get that part too. But all I need to know about the church is that Jesus picked her. Wouldn’t that be lame if you were trying to talk me into what a swell gal your wife was? I mean, all the information I need to know is, you’re married. With that comes all the information I need – that she must have taken you by storm. You must have given up everything. I bet you would have given up food if she would have gone on a date with you. Like that kind of thing, that’s all the information I need to know about the church, Jesus picked it. And so instead of me telling the church how she would really look better if she had this in her hair, or that over there (and I’m not just being shallow here), I think I’m just respecting the Groom’s pick. The bride is going to do great things, and has the ability to. I think one of the times the bride looks great is if she is just trigger-locked on the groom. Wouldn’t it be weird if the bride was just looking to the right and the left the whole time she was just walking down the aisle? Distracted by this and that? What if a bride came down the aisle reading a list of all of her opinions? “This is my opinion about this…” wouldn’t that be a screwed up wedding? I mean, really?! (laughs)
So one thing I do is (and I realize this might sound nuts), every month or so, I try to take like an Etch-a-sketch [so to speak], and I clear my faith. I go to zero, clear the deck. And I start adding things back to my faith, one at a time. What would be the first thing I’d add back? Jesus. It sounds a little bit like a Sunday school answer, but that’s what I do. Then what’s the next thing? And I’d say, well, loving people. And then the next… and what’s crazy about it, (just try it yourself) what would be like the seventh thing you’d add back to your faith? I bet you won’t get there. I think you’re really going to have a hard time even getting back to seven things. And we start sometimes talking about number 80! Like, this opinion about this, or that. If the bride is looking to other things, we’re [essentially] talking about number 80. I want to say, just as an illustration – what’s number 7? Because I think if I can get number 1 and number 2 right, and then number 3 and 4, those will instruct what my number 5 and 6 are – and I’ll probably never get to 80. But if I do, it will probably be so instructed by those other numbers that then it’s just trigger-locked on Jesus. Just eyes focused on Jesus.
FC: Bob, what was your goal in releasing Love Does: discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world?
Bob: Oh it’s a terrific caper. Thomas Nelson asked if I would write a book and I said, “Oh I don’t know, would you build a school?” (laughs) And they said, “How big’s the school?” and I said, “260 kids and 40 teachers in Gulu, Northern Uganda.” Many of these kids are child soldiers and they said “Wow, big school!” And I said, “I don’t know, big book!” And so we did it! It was everybody together, Donald Miller, Thomas Nelson, me and everybody just said, let’s go build this school, and it’s built! You can build a school out of a bunch of pages of paper. That’s amazing to me.
FC: And is that what Restore Leadership Academy is?
Bob: Yes! Isn’t that great?! And get this, they’re the number one school now in all of Northern Uganda. We’ve sold a couple more books than we thought and this thing hit the New York Times [bestseller’s list] a couple of times and we’ve got seven more buildings underway right now. We’ve got a library with 5,000 books in it, already. It’s the first one in Northern Uganda. It’s nuts! So, that’s what we set out to do. We said, what if there’s nothing on the other side of the equals signs? Just Jesus. We don’t even really tell anybody until the last page of the book, and then it’s hey, do you know what you guys did? All of the proceeds of this thing go to help these terrific kids.
FC: We won’t tell anybody either… well, not until the end of this interview.
Bob: (laughs) Ahhhh! Terrific!
FC: Bob, at the end of your life, what do you want people to remember you for?
Bob: (laughs) Well, we had all of these pets growing up – did you do this as a kid? Ya know, the rabbit would die or a squirrel or a canary. Well, I never wanted to tell the kids that their pet died, so we’d always say, “it got away.” (laughs) Isn’t that crazy?! They’d say, well, dad, where’s the bunny? And I’d say, well, it got away.
Actually one time I was too chicken to say it… We had this long-eared rabbit called Ben, so I found a replacement rabbit and I put it in the cage and everything because Ben “got away.” But it was a little bit bigger and the spots were in different places (laughs) and when they got home they said, “Where’s Ben?” And I said, “This is Ben” and they said, “Dad this is NOT Ben.” So we named him Bennigan. (laughs) So I’m flaking on your what’s-on-your-tombstone thing… I hope it just says “He got away.” (laughs) I know that’s what the kids will put. But I hope that I leave a legacy of capers and mischief and joy. And there’s a difference between a caper and a prank. A prank is like playing Ding-Dong-Ditch, you know, you ring the doorbell and then run and hide in the ditch. That’s a prank. It has no shelf life, like reassembling the principal’s car up on the roof of the gym. It’s cute and everything but there’s no shelf-life, and it can actually be kind of destructive. But a caper is different. It’s something where everybody has made it in. so I hope that I can leave a legacy of capers. We have a thing around the Goff house. The first one to make dad cry around Christmas, they’re the big winners. And all I want are photographs of the kids. And so anything flat… if the kids pick up something flat and start walking toward me – I just start crying because I know it’s going to be a picture of them. (laughs) It could be the Beatles White Album, but if I thought it was a picture of them, I’d start to cry. So the kids this past year put together a book of all the capers we’ve done in the last 15-20 years and there’s a lot. It was a pretty thick book, and so I’m just weeping, turning the pages from one caper to the next. And at the end of this book there was an envelope with three letters in it. They were letters that the kids had written to the children that they don’t have yet. They’re not even going out on dates yet (laughs) but they wrote their [future] kids. And so to read this letter from my son Adam to his kids talking about a life filled with whimsy, filled with joy, filled with adventure that he’s looking forward to, and then to see at the bottom of the letter signed, “your dad, Adam…” that just took me out. That’s what I want to leave behind. That kind of legacy where the kids are already plotting and planning for their kids, and I think that’s what the church did. They had all these hopes for us early on. They said this is who we could be. This is this big God that we follow. They were hoping, they were just rooting for us. That’s that ‘great cloud of witnesses.’ Rooting for us, hoping we’ll live into the people that God meant for us to be. The people that God made us to be. Not just [who we’re] able to be.
FC: Are you a book reader?
Bob: I am! I tell you, every time I read a book now though I think, here’s a guy or gal who did their job. (laughs) They finished the book! It took me so long to do it. Sometimes with reading it’s hard to make the time. I think Don Miller’s probably one of my favorite authors of all time because he just writes with his heart. He’s just a good guy. I’ve learned a lot about love and friendship from how he lives his life.
FC: How about music?
Bob: Oh, probably Brandon Heath is one of my closest friends and he’s releasing a single called, get this, “Love Does.” Isn’t that fun? He totally mugged me. Like he played the song for me, and I’m crying and he’s like “Bob I put this on the album, I hope you don’t mind.” And I’m like what? And he played the song and I’m like NO! (laughs)
Born into a legacy of gospel music, J. Moss continues to blaze an R&B trail with his addictive beats and no nonsense message. Through his new album Volume 4… The Other Side and powerhouse production team, J. Moss is breaking new ground in the industry and challenging gospel artists to let even their stage presence open new doors for ministry.
Family Christian: Would you start us off by taking a few minutes to describe your childhood?
J. Moss: (laughs) Well, it’s kinda fast. My dad basically stuck a mike in front of my face at the age of 5 years old and I’ve been doing it ever since. At the age of 41 this year, that’s 36 straight years in music. So of course, you can only imagine what that type of childhood is like, being in the limelight right at the time you can complete full sentences. But I think it took every bit of that time to nurture and shape who I am today. But it also took me away from being on the local football teams and basketball teams, a lot of movies I didn’t see, a lot of parties I didn’t attend, get-togethers at school I didn’t get to experience. During the summers my dad had us on the road. I wasn’t able to do things with my friends in the neighborhood because of the calling that I had and of course what my dad required of us. Definitely a very fast, expedient (if you will) childhood. I missed a lot, but that’s why I’m making up for it now – still a kid at heart.
FC: So you come from a long line of musicians – your dad was part of the Moss Brothers and your cousins are the Clark Sisters. As you just alluded to, you went on tour as a child. At what point did you realize that your life was going to continue moving in that direction, as a Gospel singer?
J. Moss: I always knew it, way back from when I was 5, on those old 45 records that we put out years ago. I always knew I’d be a singer in some capacity. Whether I’d be in a group or a solo artist I didn’t know, but I definitely knew at a young age that a calling was on my life and I was different from other kids. No better than the other kids, but I was different; the pull on my life (and not just what my mom and dad were requiring of me), there was something to my heart. A passion deep down that hadn’t even been awakened yet. It probably came [to fruition] when I was at Michigan State University. Those years are where it really started to shift and I was kind of able to guide it to where God wanted it to be.
FC: May we ask what you went to MSU for…?
J. Moss: Electrical engineering.
FC: So you’re one of those guys (like a lot of us) who are not doing what you went to college for…
J. Moss: Right, not at all. (laughs) It wasn’t easy, but I definitely utilized that education, I programmed microphones and was a programming instructor for Microsoft for 7 to 10 years. I was able to utilize some of that training and even get more training (at a certifiable level) with Microsoft. But I’m not using a lot of that now. It’s all about music and music production.
FC: Let’s talk about music a minute. You seem to take the listener on a journey in every single one of your songs. What is your process for writing a new song?
J. Moss: Well, it varies. Sometimes [I get ideas while] mowing the lawn, pulling weeds out of the garden, sometimes it’s on a plane. There’s no finite way to write a song, it comes in many different forms. You just have to be open and available for it to drop in your spirit. That’s what I love about art; there is no right or wrong way to do it. We just have to be open to those feelings as they drop into us. That’s pretty much how I live my life. It could be 3 AM or 3 in the afternoon that I go to the piano and get something going on. That’s just how it is. That’s how we make it happen. I don’t run from that, I embrace it and my family understands that. My wife automatically knows that if I jump up in the middle of the night and run out of the room, 9 times out of 10 it’s not an emergency, it’s that something’s been pulling at me during the night, during my sleep. I’m just always in a receptive place for whenever or whatever God wants to do.
FC: How would you describe your music?
J. Moss: My music is definitely very in-your-face, very one-on-one. Humanistic, if I can use that word. Just a real down-to-earth kind of writing. They’re songs that people can put in and say “that’s neat” without having to decipher through. I write by Scripture, but there’s not a lot of scriptural “jargon” to pick through. A lot of the songs just kinda hit you in the face just dealing with your everyday situations. Marriages, parent/child relationships, things that go on in our churches, our jobs, things that happen while we’re driving home from work, things that happen in school, in relationships. Things that aren’t miracles. Just a real, in-your-face, down to earth, grimy kind of style that hits home with everybody.
FC: In writing your latest album Volume 4… The Other Side did you set out to write around a specific theme? We aren’t music critics, but we’re pretty sure we’ve picked up on one…
J. Moss: Well, [typically] the theme you’d guess is exactly what we set out to do. We’re very strategic with our albums. Very strategic with what’s going to be the direction or focal point. We try not to be all over the place so we can give the listener or those who are going to experience the project a pleasurable experience. So this album is definitely one of victory and triumph, being on the other side of victory. So many gospel albums are very somber, slow, very “in the struggle” or “in the storm,” types of concepts and what we wanted to do was go on the other side of that; get into a more celebratory, triumphant and victorious type of delivery. Where we’re talking about the advantages of God bringing healing and bringing you out of it – God doing what He promises that He would do. So probably what you felt is what we set out to do.
FC: What would you say to a person who is spiritually “in the wilderness?” They realize that God is there, but in their heart they feel abandoned…
J. Moss: Well, that’s where the song “Good and Bad” comes from. I just got so tired of people falling into this hopelessness. And it’s not necessarily just individuals; it’s those of us who are leaders, ministers, recording artists, what have you. It’s our job, our duty, to let them know that God has not abandoned us. That’s a really serious thing. That’s heavy on my heart. I’m on a campaign to let everybody know, hey look, God is still there, He’s still healing. As long as you have breath, the Lord has your back. All we have to do is tap into that. A lot of times we stray so far away that we can’t find our way back home – so basically what you have to do is use your spiritual GPS system (which is the Word of God), and a healthy supporting cast – your friends and family. You want to hang around the people that actually speak those things into existence and you’ll be able to find your way back to the light. But by no means has God punished us, left us, abandoned us. That’s what this record is about. It’s about reminding people of God’s faithfulness. Great is His faithfulness. It’s because of His mercies that we’re not abandoned, we are not consumed. And I live by that promise. Every single day we are renewed. That means every morning He gives us a clean slate. The things we’re ready to ask forgiveness for He’s already thrown into the sea of forgetfulness. Now all we need to do is just press on toward the high calling which is in Jesus.
FC: J, you’ve said “this record is a clear reflection of my life and where I am at this moment.” You’ve talked briefly about going through the wilderness and living on the other side of that. Do you write from your own experience, or for a particular audience?
J. Moss: Well, I’m definitely writing [in response to] things that I hear on Facebook, read on Twitter, what I get in emails and from people walking up to me at the end of shows we do. People saying “thank you J for your transparency.” I’m hearing these stories and these issues and experiences that others are going through, so a lot of the final form is not targeted just at J. Moss – but he gives you a lot of himself. [I showed you] the fragile human being in the 3rd project Just James, but with V4… The Other Side we came out of that and decided to really just be a servant of the people again and give them what they needed to hear – a word of encouragement to continue to press on…
FC: So obviously you’re a solo artist, but also along with your business partners – Paul Allen and Walter Kearney – you’ve formed PAJAM Music Group and have had the privilege of working with a ton of heavy hitters: Byron Cage, Hezekiah Walker, the Trin-i-tee 5:7 girls, Karen Clark Sheard, N’Sync, Boyz II Men, Patti LaBelle…? Dude, seriously?! How do you continually balance all of this and keep Christ at the center of your heart?
J. Moss: You have to balance it out. You know, you can’t say yes to everything. Sometimes you just have to say, “look I’m unavailable right now” even if it’s just for a 30-40 minute reading or meditation session with God, or I’m going to Bible study and I’m not going to be bothered. A lot of times it’s family that will keep you rooted and grounded in those things. You have to balance family, spirituality and business all at the same time and you only get 24 hours a day to do it per day. Plus you gotta get sleep in there, exercise, health, all of that in there. Balance and management of time truly is key. And again I can’t say enough about the supporting cast. You gotta have management and partners around you who understand the demands on your life and will allow you to breakaway and break free to do certain things. A lot of times it’s our business affairs guy, Walter Kearney, who handles most of that [for me]. He’ll call me sometimes and say J, we have an interview in five minutes and I’ll say, Walter, I just sat down at the table with the family to eat. And he knows that we’ve been out of town for a few weeks and that the time is important, so I won’t even have to deal with that – he’ll intercept it for me, call the radio station or media outlet. You need people like that around you so you can keep a level head about these things. Because you’ll always be pulled in different directions, and eventually you’ll just explode. So I thank God for the people at PAJAM, my family, friends, siblings, mom, all of them who really understand what it takes to be somebody like J. Moss and they really help me the best that I can be.
FC: This is kind of a curve ball – In all of the various people that you’ve worked with in the past, do you have any embarrassing moments or hilarious memories with them that you’d be willing to share?
J. Moss: Well if anyone follows us on Twitter or YouTube you’ll know we always have a top 5 or 10 [artists]. One artist that is consistently in our male vocalist top 10 is Marvin Winans. He was gracious enough to lend us his talents on the V2 project that we did with Byron Cage. So we did the vocals, recorded it and he did a wonderful job, and somehow between Paul, Walter and myself, after it was done we somehow threw the vocals into a digital trash can and could not get them back. We had nothing. I mean, man, for days we went back and forth first to try and find the vocals, and once we realized that it was just a no-go, we had to call him. We almost did everything but flip a coin to see who was going to have to call Marvin. (laughs) I mean we were so on edge, He’s a Grammy award winner, he’s our mentor, he’s helped us in so many areas and given so much to our ministry, he’s just been a great friend down through the years. But still, out of respect for who this guy is and his time, how do you tell him on a vocal that he already approved that we lost it and now he’s got to do it again. On one hand you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, and ya know, on the other hand he’s busy and he may not want to do it again, or he may get upset with us. So Paul and I had a time on our hands just trying to figure out the best way to break the news to him. The funny part about it was, I ended up being the one to break the news to him and really all he did was laugh. I mean, he couldn’t stop laughing. He’s a jokester so he clowned us. We have a very personable relationship with him. If you would have seen us, you never would have thought the end result would have been him laughing and clowning with us. It was definitely a time to be remembered.
FC: Ok, last question - every time we have seen you live or on video, you are a ball of fire! So we’re wondering, do you drink Mountain Dew or Red Bull? Are you just jacked up on caffeine all day long?
J. Moss: (laughs) You know what, that has been one of those things people have always said to me. If you look in the gospel music industry, especially black gospel, there’s just not a lot of artists that can target the young person in how they want [music/ministry] presented. So when you look at Kiki [Kierra Sheard], myself, Deitrick [Haddon], you know, outside of the few of us, there’s not many more. Of course Kirk [Franklin] does what he does, but just for that incorporating of the dancers and all the movement, jumping from one side of the stage to another, it’s all really just trying to give people in general (not just young people) an experience, and let them know that we’re excited and having a good time. We’re happy with this commission that we have on our lives. I just think that’s where God put me, not just in a place of standing flat-footed to sing, it’s always about being excited about Him. I think the more people can see the excitement in you, they will be more engaged and that will prompt them to get more involved in the service and what’s happening. When you can capture their attention on that level, then you can start feeding them that word of encouragement from the Word of God and start [seeing] changed lives. So PAJAM and I are all about artists who are sticklers for their presentation, because if we can get their attention and get them in the palm of our hand, we can start feeding them what our ultimate purpose is – the Word of God.
FC: We love it. We just really appreciate your music and have especially enjoyed this last record.
J. Moss: Thank you so much, we appreciate your love and support – allowing us to use you as an outlet to get this message out. We are going to continue to stay in the studio, in the books, on our knees before the Lord and try to provide excellent product.