Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis
Posted on March 28, 2014 by Family Christian
This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Hayley DiMarco, C.S. Lewis, Sarah Young, Max Lucado, Joel Osteen, Billy Graham, Stasi Eldridge, Kyle Idleman, John Hagee, Joseph Prince, Eric Metaxas
Posted on February 20, 2014 by John van der Veen
Shane Harper established himself as an artist with a quadruple threat—singer, actor, dancer, and songwriter. He began working as a professional dancer in the entertainment industry when he was just 13, appearing as a principal dancer in High School Musical 2, and in Nickelodeon's show, "Dance on Sunset".
Shane transitioned easily into acting, and is recurring on the hit Disney Channel show, "Good Luck Charlie", for all 4 seasons. He guest starred on "Wizards of Waverly Place", and "So Random". He also guest starred in a 4 episode arc for the scripted MTV series, "Awkward."
As an actor in film, Shane worked with Rob Reiner, in a supporting role for the movie, FLIPPED. He also had a small featured role in the Bollywood film, MY NAME IS KHAN.
Shane has a principal role in the feature film, GOD'S NOT DEAD and recently, I sat down with him to talk about faith, Hollywood, books music and coffee.
John: Thank you, Shane, for chatting with me today. I do appreciate it.
Shane: Thank you. Yeah.
John: I've got a few questions that I want to ask you and the first one, Shane, is extremely important, and I know a lot of people are actually very anxious trying to figure out exactly what you do because that may influence them. The question is, are you a coffee drinker or are you a Red Bull drinker?
Shane: Oh man, coffee, ten times out of ten. Always.
John: Is it like frou-frou coffee for you?
Shane: No. I love coffee. I love the art of making coffee. I am a coffee nut. Everything from pour over coffee to French press coffee to the whole thing. I just love it. I love buying coffee beans from different places and trying them out. It's kind of a process as well. It's a little bit therapeutic in a way, and I also am officially addicted as well. I can have 3, 4 cups of coffee in a day, and I don't really feel it which makes me kind of nervous and kid of excited and proud at the same time. I have reached ... there's that level of coffee love.
John: Yeah. You have become your own barista is what I hear you saying.
Shane: Exactly. Yes. I'm usually a latte guy unless I'm feeling in a real cappuccino mood. Generally, a good latte will really just make me smile. Generally.
John: Yeah. Very good. Because you answered that way I feel like I'm more of a friend to you now. I love coffee as well.
Shane: Yeah. It's great.
John: Shane I'm wondering maybe if we can transition into something that is a little bit more serious. I'm wondering would you share a little bit about how you came to the realization that Jesus is real and how you started to follow him?
Shane: Yeah. Absolutely. I grew up in church my entire life. Not just grew up, really was heavily involved in my youth group. I wasn't just a Sunday church guy. We were the mid-week church family, too.
John: You were all in.
Shane: We were all in. Yeah. I think there was always a genuine love for Jesus there. I really felt like I knew God from a young age. I don't think much it is was really phony or fake or like I was pretending, but I didn't realize the weight of what Jesus did for me or what the implications of Gospel centered Christianity meant until I was in my early teens.
When you get a certain age you start asking questions, and you start saying, "Well, why do we do this and what's the purpose of that, and where did we get the Bible." Just one day I came, "Where did the Bible come from?" We're reading this as an authoritative book. We're living our lives for this book. Where did we get it?
You grow up in the church community, and you almost kind of just take it as it comes because you're like, "Well, of course this is how it is, and this is how we do things, because we're Christians, and we go to this church."
I think that honestly through a lot of different circumstances and also the beginning of my involvement in the entertainment industry, I started asking different questions. It was the beginning of, "Okay, well, what does my faith look like, and how do I talk to people about it, and what does it mean for me?"
It just became a lot deeper and more settled in my soul. I was restless but kind of settled at the same time. I don't know how to describe it. Through a lot of really great Bible teaching by guys like Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll that the Gospel began to sink in more deeply. I remember sitting in my parents' room, and we were listening to a sermon by Mark Driscoll. He started to expand on Martin Luther’s “The Great Exchange.” Where Jesus gives free grace to you, and it's yours.
You didn't do anything to earn it, and I remember at that moment thinking to myself this is so much more real and life changing than I could have ever even realized. Obviously it's along process of going through these walks and these seasons, but I do remember that well and just being like, "Wow. I haven't heard it like that," or I hadn't felt Jesus pressing on my heart like that saying, "Do you realize the weight of this, not only for your life, but in the life of your community, because you live in light of that."
Tim Keller always talks about these floors in your soul. Where truth embraced or realized sinks lower. There's always another floor, and this elevator just drops lower and lower and it happens throughout your whole like and for me, it just started to plummet. It just dropped. I was like, "Wow." It’s really a wonderful thing to talk about because it brings a lot of joy to me to talk about.
John: I think, Shane, you bring up an incredible point here, and I want to expand on it. When you and your family were listening to a Driscoll sermon about Martin Luther talking about the Great Exchange. The truth is Christ on the Cross literally taking away the sins of the world, our sins, and putting them upon himself, and then taking his own righteousness and literally, like a robe going around us, giving us his righteousness, and so we have that Great Exchange between the two. That's so amazing to wrap your mind around and yet that's where we're supposed to be living every day.
John: My next question just kind of goes right along with that. Now your job is very different than a lot of other people's. You work within an industry that a lot of time goes is very contrary to that type of thought or ideal. What is it like being a Christian within Hollywood, and how do you live out your faith in that context?
Shane: It's a really good question. I immediately think of when I hear the question, "What's it like being a Christian in Hollywood?" I immediately think, "Well, being a Christian anywhere in the world more or less means the same thing from a heart perspective of how you're supposed to serve and love your community." Right? The culture that God puts you in, and we know to love Jesus first, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to live in a posture of service to those around us.
That's what it means literally to be a Christian in any culture and any community it just literally means to share the heart of Jesus with people and have that posture that Jesus had. He's washing his disciples feet. The King is washing the feet. That kind of picture he paints for us in terms of how to live lives that are really emulating the heart of Jesus is so powerful. I think in terms of ... honestly the human heart has inclinations that are honestly kind of universal. C. S. Lewis would attest to that.
There's kind of this universal thing that everyone's trying to get at, and a lot of times we try to find it within ourselves, some kind of thing we can do ... Or we try to find it outside, something that we can serve, something we can dedicate our lives to. Sometimes when you're working on a set or something, it's like, "Can you grab me a _____? Can you do this for me? Can you do that for me? Well, I need this, and I need that."
Sometimes people naturally go into service mode. You're an actor on this set. How can we service you? It’s not right. That's so contrary to how you're supposed to live with someone saying, "Well, what can I do for you? How can I make your day easier?" That's awesome that there's people that want to do that. It's not like being on Hollywood set's this fanciful thing where people bring you lattes and doing your pampering you because that's honestly a lot of times it's not like that.
John: Really? (Asks with a smile).
Shane: It depends. God has called them to do their work well, and to serve well within that job, and within that community and culture, but for me, when I show up to a set to work, what my relationship with Jesus does for me, it tells me this is not just a job. This is not just a moment to be the most paid attention to person in the room or on the set.
It's not an opportunity to indulge in that kind of natural narcissism that my heart wants to grab onto. I need to be saying “what can I do for those people on that set?” Those are people that you're there to serve. That's the idea. You're on a set, and your coworkers and the writers and lighting and props and the directors, the producers, the DPs, everyone involved is ... That's the community that you're called to serve on that day. Honestly it's funny because talking about it, it makes it sounds like I show up to these sets in all of my serving glory, and I just have this great mindset like, "Oh, I totally got it down in life. This is what I'm doing for the people that I work with."
Honestly just being completely upfront, I forget about it constantly. Weeks will go by. Months can go by, and I'm like, "What am I doing? What does my job mean? What does my job mean today?" God's called me to do this, and to do my job really well, but how has he called me to treat the people around me. I think the Gospel always challenges your values and challenges what you believe to be the most important thing. That's what I mean by like ... People are always like, "Well, Hollywood. It must be so hard."
It's like, it's hard everywhere. To live in a way ... I can't displace myself. Everyone in the world living in their communities and their cultures has a call to live a life of service. It's the same everywhere. To have a heart of Christ is the same everywhere. People are honestly the same everywhere. There's this innate human desire everywhere to find meaning and value in things, and as Christians our meaning and value is rooted and grounded in Jesus and what he's done for us.
I think the call to live a Gospel centered life as Christians is really honestly the same everywhere. Hollywood and the Greater Los Angeles area, because I live in Los Angeles, and Hollywood is just a small part of it. This is my community and culture. I'm a part of this. These are my people. These are the people that I love. I go to a local church that longs to serve the community and be ... the church. I feel blessed to be a part of this.
I think generally when people are ... Wherever people are living and doing their work, wherever God's called them, I think that's kind of a sense that we need to have in terms of where you've been placed. I don't know. I know that I'm really grateful to be here, and I never really thought I'd be living in LA, and being a part of this community. The diversity of culture in Los Angeles is really amazing. Honestly there's like a million different pockets of communities and cultures, and it's such a wonderful opportunity, I think and such an amazing place to grow.
John: In fact, as you were talking about the various pockets in LA, I do remember I went out there one time with some friends of mine that are in a Christian Reggae band, and they took me to Little Ethiopia. I don't even know if that's a real place or not, but we went to this Ethiopian restaurant. It was absolutely amazing. It was another community within this much larger community of what's going on there.
I totally get it. I resonate with it. I think your answer is very true as far as what does it mean to be a Christian in Hollywood. It's loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.
Shane: Yeah. That would have been a simpler. It's just loving God and being infatuated with who He is and what He's done for you and really wanting to serve your community in a really honest way. Not like serve your community where everyone's watching you.
Serve your community where it really means something to you to emulate the heart of Jesus which is ... I think that's life changing. I think it can be.
John: Real quick question. Yes or no answer. Are you sad that Good Luck Charlie is going off the air? I want a yes or no.
Shane: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. We did 4 years, 4 seasons of work, a hundred episodes, and it didn't feel like it was supposed to be over when we finished up. I think it's almost like it wasn't supposed to end, but everyone's still kind of really, obviously proud of the work and really happy to have been a part of it. Honestly, I think the environment was so uplifting and wonderful to be a part of. I think that hopefully people will continue to enjoy it for a long time.
Hopefully they can rerun it for a long time. It's not the last time it will ever air on TV, but having the last episode air, and having no new episodes come out feels strange. It does. It feels weird. Yeah. I'm sad it's over. It was really fun.
John: All right. You are stepping into a new category of work. You are participating in a motion picture film called God's Not Dead. It is, I guess, a fair statement would say this is a pro-Christian film, and you play a believer in the film as well. What is it like playing something that there's certainly a heart resonating there between whom Shane Harper is and who the character is in God's Not Dead. Has this been a good transition for you?
Shane: Yeah. It was really enjoyable. It was fun. It was challenging. I think with characters, as an actor, you step into this character, and you kind of zip it up, and put it on. When you're on set, you're that person certainly in the scene. It's cool because when you ... As an actor when I'm playing a character, there's always what will interest me in a project will be either me resonating with the story line, or me resonating with the character specifically. Sometimes it's a little bit of both.
In this case, there is this thing involved in it and it happens to be something really kind of personal because it's faith. It's a faith-based movie. I've had a ton of them come down the pike and when I got the breakdown, I thought, "Well, this seems interesting. I'll check it out." It was exciting to me to see the orientation of the film being kind of driven by this character Josh Wheaton being challenged by his professor, his bossy professor, and him having to work out his faith and what it means to him and how it operates in his mind.
He knows how it works in his heart, but the character has to pull out some apologetics and try and work his way through this. I think that seems really interesting to me, and so it's why I honestly went out for it. I didn't just do it because, "Oh, this is a faith based movie, and I just want to ... This will be cool to be in a movie like this because I'm a Christian you know, or whatever." It's specifically the story line, and the kind of character it was kind of drew me to it. I've always been interested in that since I was a young teenager.
I've always been interested in apologetics. C. S. Lewis has always been a huge influence on me ever since I was young. I grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia. The Great Divorce was the first grown-up book I picked up from Lewis when I was 13 or 14. Books like the Great Divorce and The Problem of Pain and The Weight of Glory and these kinds of things really started to shape how I viewed my faith in life and in practice.
It was something I naturally resonate with. It was fun. It was a lot to do. Have you seen a preview of the movie?
John: I have. Yeah.
Shane: There's these big scenes that Josh has, the character that I play. He kind of does these presentations for his class, these 3 big ones, and I had to memorize all that material, and it was a couple dozen pages of material that I had to memorize. It was all monologue. That was probably the most challenging part about the whole movie was doing those 3 scenes back to back to back 3 days in a row. The first things we ever shot in the movie. It was really rough. It was fun, but it was hard. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
John: That's very cool. Any other ... Did you get it first time, every single time, or were there a couple times where you just messed up?
Shane: No, no way. I needed that first huge mess up to make me relax, to calm the nerves. I somehow thought I was going to fly in there and be like superman or something and just do it perfectly every single shot fir 17 hours a day, 3 days in a row, and it was nice. That second of third run totally screwing up the cut. All right. Let's start over. Let's do pickup. It got the nerves out. It was dense with information. It's a college setting. The scene is that he is trying to give arguments for the validity of the existence of God.
It was a lot to work through in my brain. I actually even made notes as my character to actually give me a little bit of help giving the presentation because I was like, in real life, if you're giving a college presentation that's 9 pages long, you're going to have notes as the character. I was up there journaling information and notes and stuff. It was fun. I had to kind of get creative with it, but-
John: Good for you. All right. We're going to change gears. What about music? You are a multi-talented individual. On the soundtrack to God's Not Dead, you do have a song. Do you see yourself coming out with a full length album sometime?
Shane: Yeah. Absolutely. One of my huge passions is music. I grew up playing music. I'm currently working on a record on a full-length record. That's kind of obviously a huge goal of mine to get it out and release as soon as I can. Getting to do a song for the movie, for the film, God's Not Dead was really cool. I'd love to continue doing that. It's fun being a part of the film, and then them coming to you after, in post production saying, "Hey, can you do a song for the movie? Because we know you write music."
It's kind of a cool thing to be able to do. It's an interesting story behind the song because I actually written the chorus of Holds You Up probably 2 months before I ever auditioned for God's Not Dead. Then when they came to me to write a song for it, they said, "Hey, do you have a song that kind of goes with the flow and the vibe of this storyline, the narrative?" I said, "I don't." "Can you write one?" I was like, "Yeah. I guess I can write one."
Then a couple days later I remember, "Oh my gosh. Half of it's already written. I wrote this song that's perfect. I just need to go finish it." We finished it, and it ended up working great for the movie. It's kind of a cool story of it working out.
John: That's awesome. Shane. Man, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate it.
Shane: Thank you so much. It's been really fun. I enjoyed it. We should do this more often.
John: We should.
Check out the "behind the scenes" videos with Shane on the set of God's Not Dead
Posted on October 3, 2013 by John van der Veen
In her best-selling series of Bad Girls of the Bible books, workbooks, and videos, Liz Curtis Higgs breathes new life into ancient tales about the most infamous—and intriguing—women in scriptural history, from Jezebel to Mary Magdalene. Biblically sound and cutting-edge fresh, these popular titles have helped more than one million women around the world experience God’s grace anew.
Her best-selling historical novels, which transport the stories of Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Dinah, Ruth, and Naomi to eighteenth-century Scotland, also have invited readers to view these familiar characters in a new light.
Liz is the author of nearly 30 books, with more than 3 million copies in print. Her popular nonfiction books include Bad Girls of the Bible, Really Bad Girls of the Bible, Unveiling Mary Magdalene, Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, Rise and Shine, and Embrace Grace.
Liz is married to Bill Higgs, Ph.D., who serves as Director of Operations for her speaking and writing office. Liz and Bill enjoy their old Kentucky home, a nineteenth-century farmhouse in Louisville, and are the proud (and relieved!) parents of two college grads, Matthew and Lillian.
Liz was traveling through the area and stopped by our offices. I had never met Liz before and honestly, I didn't really know what to expect. What I met was a genuine follow of Christ. Or, in other words, a sinner/saint. Liz is not perfect. She has a "past." But more importantly, she is a child of a Great King. She stands as a testimony of God's grace and mercy.
Thankfully, Liz is now a friend. No, she's a sister. For that I am thankful.
John: How is Jack, your cat? (In case you, reader, didn't know this, Liz is a lover of her cat, Jack.)
Liz: Jack the cat is wonderful. Jack the cat has a story.
John: Oh, does he really?
Liz: Oh, yes. Well, when cats adopt you they always come for a reason. I was doing a book called Mine is the Night. The book, by the way, is based on the Book of Ruth but set in 18th century Scotland. The hero was going to be strong just as the Bible says Boaz is. In the Bible that means a man of warfare, a man of battle. But I wanted him softened by something, and I decided he would have a cat! I was all prepared to do a Facebook bit where I said to people, "Send me pictures of your cat, and I'll choose one to be Jack's, the hero, Jack's cat." Before I could, literally the day I was going to start the contest, a cat walked into our house.
John: Oh, so you didn't go seeking him?
Liz: I did not.
John: He came seeking you.
Liz: My husband is not a cat person. My husband walked in with this cat in his arms and turned to my daughter and I—we're total cat people—and said, "Have you ever seen this guy before? Because he's hanging around the back door like he wants to come in." We took one look at him and said, "Hello!"
I have him on my website. He's so handsome. He really is. He's just a very handsome cat. I knew right away he was Jack's cat and therefore, his name really ought to just be Jack. So we have Jack the hero, but we also have Jack the cat. He is described verbatim in the book. I just used him as my example. It's just fun.
John: I love it.
Liz: Jack has been with us ever since, and he's the best cat I've ever had. Don't tell Big Cat, Tiger or Mac—cats of the past.
John: Liz, you write fiction, non-fiction, children's literature, you're a speaker, you're a Bible study teacher, a Bible study leader, and you have DVDs out. You wrote a column for Today's Christian Woman for how many years?
Liz: I think it was right at ten years for them.
John: You're a mom. You're a wife.
Liz: I am, and I sing alto in the choir (laughing). I do! When they let me.
John: How does a mom with a couple of young kids at her feet, or a single parent dad who's in the midst of life, a business leader not look at you and think, "Look at everything that she's doing. She must have everything all together and everything seems to be always falling apart for me." What do you say to that person, Liz?
Liz: Well, first of all, things always look like they're falling apart from where I'm sitting too. I feel like I'm juggling so many balls in the air, and some of them do slip out of my hands.
I think the hardest thing for us to deal with, whatever we're doing, whatever our situation, whether our kids are younger, older or we don't have them, there's always the fear I haven't done enough or I haven't done it well enough. Those are the two big challenges for me: I haven't done enough or haven't done it well enough. This is when we rest. We just have to rest in, "I did everything I could with all the hours I was awake, and now I'm going to trust God with this and keep going."
If you're a perfectionist—and I most assuredly am—it's very difficult because you're never going to be finished with a task. You're never going to be fully happy. I've never turned a book in where I've said, "Yup, nailed it," ever, ever. I'm always so anxious for the first draft to come back to me so I can write the second draft. Then I think at the end of the second draft, "It's better, but it's still not right." I'm always really grateful when I get it back again from another set of editors and I get to write the third draft. Eventually, you know, they just come take them away and they won't let you have them anymore.
John: It's time to turn it in.
Liz: Exactly, so that's the rest piece. You finally have to rest in this: "I did the best I could, and it was God's work anyway. If God is working through me, then I think He is at peace with this as well." So many times we deal with a nagging voice. Maybe it's just me, but I know that nagging voice. I know it's never God. God is not a nag. He will convict by the power of the Holy Spirit. He'll convict us when we need to go a different direction, when it's time to have ears to hear and eyes to see and do something different. But conviction is healthy. That's the Holy Spirit drawing you to God.
The other voice is condemnation drawing you away from God, telling you you're not good enough, not finished enough, do better, this is terrible, all those kinds of messages. You're not a good enough father, you're not a good enough wife, and your husband deserves someone better than you. All that kind of condemnation is never from God.
That leaves one other option: It's from the enemy of our souls. I think when we can hear the difference between conviction and condemnation, we can take the conviction as the gift that it is. It's a gift. God wants to change us. He loves us so much He wants to change us. As for the condemnation, you need to send the one dishing out those lies back where he came from, because it's untruth and we don't need any more untruth pouring into our ears. That's one thing I try to do is to discern the voice.
John: Earlier today, you shared a short testimony about how you came to know the Lord. How did you move from that experience of saying, "Okay, Jesus and me together," to now, "I have a voice and I need to start sharing my life experiences with others”?
Liz: The truth is you start sharing them immediately with the people around you. You're already moving from experiencing it yourself to sharing it with other people, because it's the most natural thing to do. If you see a movie you love, you are texting people before you leave the theater. If you read a book you love, you want everybody to hear about it. You jump online and leave a review, whatever your deal is.
It is our nature when we have good news, any kind of good news, to tell people. When you get the best news in town, you tell people.
The only reason we stop telling is because we hit some resistance, or we begin to become self-conscious about it, or people treat us a little differently and we're not sure we like that. We begin to grow quiet about the Lord. I know sometimes people will say, "I have a quiet faith," but I don't think we're called to be quiet.
You have to find a way, and God will certainly show you, to share your faith in a way that is congruent with who you are. I mean, I'm loud and carry on and I'll stop complete strangers. I've had situations where I've gone into a restaurant alone, but I strike up such a conversation with the people in front of me that when the waiter comes over he expects to seat me with the people. He's sure I'm with them. Because it's just my nature to talk to anybody, anywhere; but that is not everybody's thing.
Quiet people find other ways. Sometimes they become writers. Ann Voskamp is a most extraordinary writer, and that is how her gift happens, that's how her sharing happens—on the page. Other people are incredible servants, they are doers behind the scenes, but their actions speak more loudly than my words would ever speak because it's done with such grace and such humility.
We all do have ways to do it, but I don't think doing nothing is one of the options. I think we all have to find a way to walk Christ out among the people around us.
John: Liz, is there anything left on your bucket list?
Liz: Oh, what a great question. I used to want to jump out of an airplane, you know, with a parachute attached. I've decided that, even with the parachute, it would be such an ugly thing to watch, that we're not going to be seeing that one in my lifetime (laughs). So, no jumping out of a parachute.
There are many places in this world I long to go. As it happens, because I write historical novels set in Scotland, I just keep going back to Scotland. The truth is, I would love to get to Italy. I've never been there, I'm anxious to go. I mean I'd love to go anywhere. I'd love to go to Russia. I'd love to go to India, very high on the list. I've never even been to Ireland, and it's 20 miles across the Irish Sea from the coast of Scotland. So there are many places. My bucket list is full of travel.
In our family, travel is what we do for each other. When the kids graduated from school, we never gave them stuff. We took them on a trip. That was the deal for graduating—a trip anywhere they wanted to go. It's so fun, because then you're making memories as well as expanding your understanding of the world and seeing what a small part of the world this country is. We kind of think we are big. We are big, but we're not the only game in town. It's so healthy to go outside our shores. Humbling, really.
John: From Bad Girls of the Bible to Really Bad Girls of the Bible to Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, those books have certainly done well. Why do you think there is such an affinity towards identifying with those "bad girls"? When people look at Rahab or they look at any character in the Bible, they see themselves so well. Why is that?
Liz: It's interesting, because every once in a while I'll take a little heat for focusing on the bad girls. I always say first of all I didn't put them there. They were already in the Word. All I did was bunch them up together. I did that I think because we do tend to gloss over the bad.
At least in the "women of the Bible" books that I've seen, they tend to focus on the good girls. You know, Esther Lydia, Priscilla. I thought, "Well, the Lord has put these bad girls in the Bible for a reason." Of course I'm a former bad girl, so I'm coming from that very personal place of saying, "What does God want me to see in these women's lives?"
I have to say this. In Bad Girls of the Bible, and for that matter in the other books as well, I found a bit of myself in all of them. You have to cut away the cultural differences. We eat different foods, we wear different clothes, we live in different kinds of houses and have different transportation than they did two or three thousand years ago. But the bottom-line stuff is the same whether it's lust or greed or whatever—any kind of sin you want to come up with. Pride is always the basic one. That hasn't changed at all. Human nature is the same as always.
When we identify something about that bad girl that resonates with us, then we read her story with a different eye and we see how things turn out for her. It didn't turn out too well for Jezebel, who turned her back on the one true God and worshiped her daddy's god, Baal. It didn't turn out well at all. Shoved out a window, trampled by horses, eaten by dogs, such that there was nothing left that identified her even as woman, let alone as Jezebel. This is God's statement on what happens when you turn your back on Him permanently, when you have no interest in Him, when you shut Him out completely.
She's a cautionary tale, but one worth looking at because it not only shows the big picture Jezebel, killing off the prophets, but her story in the Bible shows the small domestic scene with her husband, which for many of us who are strong-willed women will look really familiar. She kind of takes over: "I'll get you the vineyard. I'll take care of it. Give me your seal. I'll write the letter. I'll take care of it." Those of us who, as we used to say back in the day, like to wear the pants in the family—that's a funny phrase, isn't it?—we can learn from Jezebel. We can see the ugliness on the page and go, "I don't want to go there."
I think there is something to be learned from all of them. Of course our favorite ones are the ones who are redeemed. Those are the ones that really give us hope. Those are the ones that prove you can't go too far. God's arm is not short. He's going to reach you. Those are the stories I tend to speak about from the platform.
I'll touch on the other women, but hope is the main thing we offer our readers, our audiences, our friends. Hope! So the stories of the "Rahabs," and the woman at the well, and the sinful women of Luke 7 … incredible story. She never even speaks. She's kind of a little cage-rattler that one, because she never speaks, she never asks His forgiveness, she never prays the sinner's prayer, she never confesses her sin. Wow!
Does it count? It must, because Jesus says twice, "You are forgiven." It's repeated twice, just in case, just to make sure. Then He says, "Your faith has saved you." Wow. I thought Jesus saved her. Yeah, He did. Her faith in Him saved her. "Go in peace." I love that story. "Go in peace."
To my knowledge, that's what everybody in the world wants: peace. We take some pretty convoluted paths to get there. Jesus says, "My peace I give to you." He's the one who is all about peace.
I love the women of the Bible, and I do especially love the bad girls. I won't ever be writing a book called Good Girls of the Bible. I'm asked a lot to do that. But the stumbling block for me is the Bible says in Jesus's own words, "No one is good except God alone." It's the truth.
I mean even if I do a good thing, it wasn't Liz. It was God kindly doing a good thing through me. It's His righteousness, not mine. I just can't go down that road of finding all the good qualities in these women, unless I just pointed every one back to God. I could do that. Bad girls and I, we still have a little more ground to tread. I haven't done them all yet.
John: There's more to come?
Liz: Well, probably nothing called Bad Girls of the Bible in any shape, slightly, really, mostly, somewhat (laughs). I think we're done. There are still more women I want to write about. There's some that I've tucked in my pocket, thinking, "Someday." They're jumping out of my pocket now one by one. It's really fun.
John: Who do you write for? Do you write for Liz, or do you write for the people you go to church with, or do you write for the people who have read your books before? Who do you have in mind?
Liz: I have in mind Liz at 26. I came to know Jesus at 27, but I always think about Liz at 26. In other words, I make no assumptions about what people know or don't know about the Bible. I try and really spell it out. It might therefore come out as a little bit simplistic to somebody who's deep, deep, deep in the Word. But hopefully, because I also do tons of research and use about 40 English translations, there's also plenty of meat there for a believer who's been at it a while. I try to keep my language really accessible and not turn off Liz at 26.
Actually, she's not the only person I write to because we write to more than one. There is kind of this group of people. I can see them, right behind my screen. There's Liz at 26 and there's my mother-in-law. I think about who she is. She's an avid reader, 84, so an older woman. Presbyterian her whole life. There's a particular something she's going to respond to. I'm also thinking about other women of other ages and stages, married and single, deeply in the Word, new to the Word. You kind of have this little group of women and they're all peering over the screen at me. "Got something for me?" And I say, "Here, this is for you, Liz at 26, and this is for you, Mary Lee. I know that you'll really resonate with this, and this is for you."
John: Are you a reader?
Liz: Oh, yeah. This, I don't know what this will do to my credibility, but what I read is fiction. I'm a fiction reader.
John: Any authors that we know?
Liz: Well, Francine Rivers has always been my hero. She's always written boldly. Redeeming Love was bold for Christian readership. She put it all out there. Actually, I read Redeeming Love in the original. She wrote it for the general market first. Then when she came to know Christ, she got the rights back and Multnomah was able to publish it for her. There were some adjustments made in the book, but it was powerful in either form for sure.
I love fiction. I love historical fiction especially. Obviously, when I'm writing non-fiction I've got all sorts of research books around me. I love all the classics. I love Practicing His Presence, a book like that, small, powerful. Anything by C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity was really the book that spoke loudest to me as a new believer.
Actually, before I came to know Christ, when I was on that journey of the sun growing brighter and brighter, it was just overwhelming to me because I come from a family who really values education so everybody has master's degrees and are just very impressed with being educated. Which is great, obviously. But Jesus asked us to come as simple as a child.
To read Lewis, who's obviously brilliant and yet sees also the simplicity in some ways, just blew my mind. A man that’s smart thinks this is the answer? I was having a hard time arguing with him. Of course, he presents arguments so skillfully. He'll present the argument and then lay out 1 through 10, here's all the reasons why. You can't come up with 11. It's like, "I agree!" (Laughs.)
John: You twisted my arm! HA!
Liz: That's right. You have very effectively twisted my mind. You've taken this very intellectual journey and come to a very spiritual place. It's unique. Of course, I marvel that he wrote not for a Christian publisher, he wrote for the world. He did radio broadcasts for everybody.
John: What has God been teaching Liz Curtis Higgs lately?
Liz: So many things. It's hard to know where to start. One word He's pressing down so hard into me is "gratitude" and the responsibility that goes with all those gifts. I don't mean gifts as in talents; I mean just the blessings.
To be really grateful and always expressing that gratitude, and never, never letting myself indulge in even a moment of, "Hey, I did a pretty good job there." We just can't go there. We can't say, "I did a pretty good job." You might say to yourself, "Wow, God. Wow, God, I had a sense of You at work there. How did I get to be a part of that? I don't know, but thank You." It's just so different.
I heard an interview with an author on NPR and I learned so much and was greatly convicted. After every sentence the unstated was, "Aren't I brilliant?" "I did this, I did this, I did this." That's what I heard behind the words. It was convicting because I thought, "Oh, my word. I've got to go back and listen to my interviews and say, 'Is that what I was also saying? Aren't I brilliant?'" So, I'm not. I know that. I think that's the one thing God is trying to make really clear to me. That if there is any good thing, it's just Him.
And Liz continues to write. To be an influence. At the time of this interview she was just finishing up her new Christmas title, The Women of Christmas.
Liz is here to stay and for that we all can be thankful.
Posted on April 3, 2013 by John van der Veen
Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels—The Last Jihad, The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, The Copper Scroll, Dead Heat, The Twelfth Imam, and The Tehran Initiative—and five nonfiction books, Epicenter, Inside the Revolution, Implosion,Israel at War, and The Invested Life, with nearly 3 million copies sold. The Ezekiel Option received the Gold Medallion award as the "Best Novel of 2006" from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Joel is the producer of two documentary films based on his nonfiction books. He is also the founder of The Joshua Fund, a nonprofit educational and charitable organization to mobilize Christians to "bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus" with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian relief.
Joel's newest book, Damascus Countdown is available now and one scan of the description will put you on the edge of your seat.
All eyes are on the Middle East. Israel has successfully launched a first strike on Iran, taking out all of their nuclear sites and six of their nuclear warheads - and causing The Twelfth Imam to order a full-scale retaliation. U.S. President William Jackson threatens to support a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish State for unprovoked and unwarranted acts of aggression.
Meanwhile, CIA operative David Shirazi has infiltrated the Iranian regime and intercepted information indicating that two Iranian nuclear warheads survived the attack and have been moved to a secure and undisclosed location. In danger not only from the ongoing missile strikes on Iran but also from the increasingly hostile and suspicious governments of multiple countries, David and his team are in a race against time to find the remaining nuclear warheads before disaster strikes.
With Damascus Countdown, bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg returns with another adrenaline-charged political thriller - a gripping tale snatched from future headlines.
All that to say, it's amazing what God has brought Joel through. Certainly God has had his hand on Joel and has allowed him to make the story of Christ bigger through fictional writing.
John: Joel, I’m wondering maybe if you could give us a little bit of background information as to just who Joel Rosenberg is? I know that you were born into a family where your father is Jewish, was Jewish, and your mom was not. Is that correct?
Joel: It’s true. My father still is Jewish, he still believes in …
John: Of course.
Joel: Jesus as the Messiah, but he was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn. His parents and grandparents escaped out of Russia as Orthodox Jews in the early 1900s, when the Czar was leading the war and encouraging the pogroms--those terrible waves of anti-Semitism against the Jewish people. Their family was able to escape, and eventually got to the United States, and like any good Jewish family, they set up shop in Brooklyn, which is where my dad was born and raised.
My mom was raised in upstate New York in a little town called Rome. You might expect that it was a pretty Catholic town, being called “Rome.” My grandfather—her father—was Catholic, but her grandmother was Protestant Methodist, and unfortunately her father was a very violent, alcoholic, abusive man and eventually left the family and divorced my mother’s mother.
My mom was now an only child to a single mother in the ‘40s and that was a tough place to be. My mom was raised in the church, but she was not particularly religious. She never heard the Gospel in her particular church, and of course, my father never heard the Gospel growing up. They were both pretty much agnostics when they met and married in the mid-60s. A few years later, in 1967, I was born, and our whole family’s story began to take an interesting turn.
John: You said you were born in New York State?
Joel: Yes, I was born in Syracuse. That’s where they met. My father was an architect, working at his first job as an architect. My mom was doing graduate work at Syracuse University, and they met at a party and fell in love, and my father proposed. Though, I have to say that my Jewish grandmother was so upset at the idea that he was going to propose to a Gentile woman that she offered to buy the engagement ring back from him, at a profit to him, if he did not do this, but he went for it anyway.
John: Joel, how does Christ enter into your family?
Joel: My parents were seekers. They really were lost and it was the ‘60s. They weren’t really counter-cultural, but they were newly married in 1965. They were trying to establish a life for themselves, but they felt lost. They felt sure that there was a God; they just didn’t know who He was. When they looked back at my father’s background in Orthodox Judaism, it surfaced a lot of painful memories for him. Now, there are many wonderful, warm, loving Orthodox Jewish families and communities. My father did not live in one, however; so he didn’t think that digging into Orthodox Judaism was going to help him. My mom’s experience with her violent Catholic father left that option without any particular appeal. And since she had grown up in what was, quite honestly, a dead little Protestant church that hadn’t taught her the Gospel, she didn’t have much hope for that either.
They read the Koran. They got confused. They didn’t find it that interesting. They read the Bhagavad Gita and looked into Hinduism. They didn’t really get that either and didn’t have any draw there. They tried to read the New Testament, but they just didn’t get it, honestly, and so they’d go for long walks, talk about, “Do you know God? How are we going to find God? Does anyone know God?”
One day they happened to visit a church and they were sitting there and the pastor wasn’t there, but some visiting young couples had been asked to lead the service that day--an atypical scenario for that particular denomination. As it happened, and these couples were saying, “We were raised in the church, but honestly we never knew that we had to be born again, and that you couldn’t just go to church and then know God, you had to accept Him in your heart, you had to receive Christ by faith.”
My mom began to sit up a little, and leaned forward. She had never heard of verses like John 3:16 or John 14:6. She literally didn’t know the Good News, that Christ had died for her to forgive her, to adopt her into His family. As an orphaned kid essentially, an abandoned kid--in her min--from a broken family, the idea of God adopting her into His family was a game-changer! She just was electrified, and she thought, “How do you do that?” Well, they explained how.
They said, “Afterwards, when the service is done, if you want to come forward and ask some questions, great. If you’d like to make the decision to receive Christ, then you’ll really start to know God because He’ll be living inside of you.” Her response was, “Yes!” So she went forward, prayed to receive Christ, and assumed that my father was right next to her sharing her enthusiasm, but he wasn’t. He was finding coffee out in the lobby.
Anyway, he basically said to her, “Listen honey, I know we’re on this search, but I’m Jewish. Jews do not believe in Jesus, it’s not going to happen. I’m happy for you, but I don’t believe that. No.” To his credit, he was willing to go to a small group Bible study that my mom wanted to join. There, they were going to go through the Gospel according to Luke and study it, chapter by chapter. My father thought, “Look, any good, red-blooded American ought to know the New Testament. I tried to read it; I didn’t understand it. Sure I’ll go just so I will know the basic plot, that’s fine.”
After six months of listening carefully, two things stunned him. First, he was stunned by really reading the Word of God, because he never had done that. He had never just sat and read the Word of God, certainly not in English; he read some in Hebrew, but he didn’t understand it. To read the Word of God was electrifying to him. Confusing, admittedly, but there was something about it. I guess I don’t have to tell you, your readers or your staff this, but God’s Word is powerful!
Well, it began to affect him. The second thing that was transformative was something he never knew as a Jewish person, which was that Jesus had actually claimed to be the Messiah. He knew that Christians thought He was the Messiah, but he didn’t realize that Jesus Himself had been challenged on this point and said, “Yes, that’s exactly who I am.”
When he came across verses like that in Luke, he was shocked and thought, “Wait a minute, wait just a minute. If you claim to be the Messiah and you’re not, then I can’t call you a good teacher anymore.” This has been the classic C. S. Lewis or Josh McDowell logical analysis. My father hadn’t ever heard of those two men, but he was an architect. He had an engineering mind--a logical mind--and he said to himself, “If Jesus claims to be the Messiah, which He clearly does, and He isn’t one,” which is what he thought, “then either Jesus knew He wasn’t the Messiah and was just lying to people, or He thought he was the Messiah and He’s just crazy.” But as he continued to study through Luke, he could not come to the conclusion that this person, Jesus, was a liar or a lunatic. Six months after they started in that study, he came home one day and said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and I received Him by faith today on the bus coming home from work.” That was the beginning of a very serious revolution in our family, both my parents within six months of each other coming to faith in Jesus as Messiah.
[All that to say,] I was growing up in a lost, agnostic house and suddenly my parents were saying they believe in Jesus and started dragging my sister and I off to church every week. I can’t say I was a big fan of that.
John: Tell us a little bit about that journey. Obviously, if they are the ones that certainly made this decision, something was changing in the family dynamic. How did you and your sister approach this new idea?
Joel: Differently. We approached it very differently. I was a little resentful at first. I didn’t like having to go to church. I didn’t like being put in a Sunday school class where the kids seemed to already all know the Bible stories. Literally, the pastor’s son and some of the Elders’ daughters were there, and the class wasn’t that big, but everybody knew the Bible stories and I didn’t know any of them. Then they had, I don’t know if you used to force, I mean, “encourage” your kids to do sword drills?
Joel: "Hold up the Bible and say, “John 3:16,” and whoever finds it first gets a Wiffle ball and bat." That’s what they did in our class to encourage study of the Bible by, let’s say, friendly competition. I just was embarrassed because I would lose every week. They would say, “John 3:16,” and I was like, “I see a Mark, a Johnny, a Gary, a Nancy, I don’t see any John, who’s John?” I’d never read the Bible. I had never looked at the Bible. I don’t think I’d ever held a Bible.
Over the next few years, my parents got me a little pocket New Testament. It might’ve been a Gideon Bible; certainly it was along those lines. It was funny; it was one of those Bible New Testaments that have the Psalms and the Proverbs in the back. One day they said in class, “Ready? What’s the last Book of the Bible?” I looked up first and I got my hand up before everyone, and everyone was shocked because I never won. I never even played basically.
John: Yes, I know where this is going.
Joel: He said, “Oh, wow! Joel, what’s the last Book of the Bible?” and I said, “Proverbs.”
John: Oh yes, of course.
Joel: They just laughed. They said, “No, no, it’s Revelations.” I said, “Not in my Bible,” and I’m pointing it out to them: “It’s right there, black and white, give me that bat, give me that ball.” But, of course, they wouldn’t do it. I think I’m still a little bit bitter. I’m working out my angst on that one.
The bottom line is, I wasn’t a big fan. The only thing worse than Sunday school, to me was the fact that in our church we had VBS. We get to the end of the school year, and there was no Sunday school for summer. We had summer vacation, so I thought, “Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.” Then I was like, “Oh no, my parents are making me go to Vacation Bible School …” And every day too. That was a disaster. The short version of that was, I really resented that because I’m not a big fan of singing, or wasn’t at the time, and I don’t like crafts, and that’s basically all you do in Vacation Bible School. At least that’s the way it was where I was raised, in the little town of Fairport, New York. It was terrible. I did like those stories about Jesus, though, but I thought, “I can think of a lot of better ways to spend my summer morning than gluing elbow macaroni to burlap to write out ‘Jesus loves me.’”
It was through that process, and honestly, prayer--the prayers of my Sunday school teachers, the lady around the corner that had VBS in her basement, parents—and the model of seeing my parents changing that I changed too. That year, when I was eight years old, I prayed to receive Jesus into my heart as my Savior. I believe I really truly was born again at that moment, even though I didn’t understand it all, and was able to receive this as a child by faith.
It was a number of years before it began to become truly, deeply transforming to me. It had an effect early on, but it wasn’t really until high school that I had to wrestle it through more deeply and then began to take it more seriously. That’s the short version of my process, my journey.
John: Needless to say, all of the workings or the activities that your Sunday school teachers and your VBS teachers had done for you specifically, Joel, they didn’t really have much effect. It was something far…
Joel: No, I would say it did, but it wouldn’t have looked that way to them. The answer of that all, the conclusion is, they did have an effect, it’s just that I didn’t look like a kid that was responding. Their faithfulness, teaching the Word of God, praying for me and loving me, being patient with me, did open my heart. In effect, it only took a few years, so in the grand scheme of things it didn’t look so difficult.
The heavy lifting was God saving my parents. I’m grateful for those Sunday school teachers and that Vacation Bible School teacher. In fact, I was teaching once at a church a few years ago and I was telling that story. People were laughing and I was maybe milking it a bit, and lo and behold, who should show up in the lobby but the lady who was running the VBS class. She was like, “Wow, it was that bad?” I said, “No, yes, I guess that’s the way I felt, but you heard the end of the story, it worked! God’s Word works.” I was very grateful and was able to tell her face-to-face.
John: It’s amazing…
Joel: Thank God for all the patient Bible school teachers out there.
John: Absolutely. It’s amazing the tools that God uses to bring people to Himself.
John: Joel, so then in high school, you understood the reality of God’s grace towards you and you received Him as your Savior? At what point did you start leaning towards writing?
Joel: That same year that I was eight years old that I prayed to receive Christ, that same year I remember having a real interest in either writing and making movies or writing novels. Basically, I wanted to become a storyteller.
Looking back, perhaps it’s fair to say those two moments converged. Obviously, it took a long time to play itself out. It wasn’t until I was 17 years old that I took my faith particularly seriously and started sharing my faith in high school. I started a Bible study and tried to reach everybody in my high school with the Gospel. I really got electrified halfway through my junior year, and I’d always been interested in writing, and ended up going to film school at Syracuse University.
Years later, actually, the Lord gave me the opportunity to begin to write my first novel and who knew, it became a New York Times Bestseller. This was the book, The Last Jihad, which released in November 2002. Usually when you write your first book, you just hope that your mother can find it in a bookstore within a hundred miles of her house, not that it would become a bestseller. I couldn’t have anticipated that.
That was a long time away from my early dreams of being a writer, but, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I think He did a lot to refine those desires and take me through some other paths and to prepare me for what was coming. My goodness, I can’t say either my wife or me anticipated that if I made a pivot in my career, from politics to writing novels, that that would be successful.
John: Joel, in writing these books, the Lord certainly has used you to open some very significant paths in conversation. You’ve had the opportunity to be on numerous television news programs, and radio as well. You’ve been on ABC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC; you’ve talked with Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and many others. When you walk into those settings and you are in an environment that is certainly different than the one that you and I are in right now, how do you go about it? What is your goal in that type of conversation? What do you hope to accomplish as they are trying to figure out what you stand for and what your books have been doing as well as what’s going on over in the Middle East? What is your goal in that process?
Joel: It’s a great question. Maybe the simplest way to answer it is to tell the story, just briefly, of what happened when the first novel was released. In other words, in terms of my novels, yes, my objective is to write geopolitical thrillers that are heart-pounding, edge of your seat, can’t put them down, stay up all night-type thrillers. I want to entertain. I want to grab people by the collar and pull them in on an adventure ride that they can’t let go of and that they finish to the end.
That’s the first objective. In that, I want my characters to show a whole range of different emotions and ideas, and I want some of them to be on a spiritual journey. Being on a spiritual journey has been a significant part of my parents’ life and my own life, and I think this is the most eternal point. Not every person who reads one of my novels is going to necessarily going to react well to some of the spiritual sub-themes; but they’re there and they’re important to me.
I think the novels stand on their own as geopolitical thrillers, but I also want them to spark some thinking on a range of issues, one of which is, “What about this? Where am I going when I die? What is my future and can I have a relationship with God that’s personal?” Those are my objectives, and so, I certainly hope when I walk into a radio interview or a TV or print interview, that those types of conversations will come up.
What’s amazing is that they do come up. Not every time, but when I first released The Last Jihad, that novel, from the first page, puts the reader inside the cockpit of a jet plane, which has been hijacked by radical Muslim terrorists and is coming in on a kamikaze attack mission into an American city. That’s how the book begins and I wrote that nine months before September 11, 2001. As The Last Jihad continues, it leads from this kamikaze attack on an American city to a war between the United States and Saddam Hussein over terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. All of that was written before 9/11.
When the book, The Last Jihad, released in November 2002, believe me, no one had ever heard of Joel Rosenberg, no one had ever heard of The Last Jihad, and honestly nobody really cared. When that book came out, people were so intrigued with the plot, not with me, not with my faith, not with my parents’ spiritual story growing up. What they were interested in was, “Wait a minute, you wrote about a kamikaze attack on the United States by Muslims nine months before it happened and about a war between the United States and Iraq and now we’re debating whether we should have that very war? How was that possible? How did you do that?” That was the conversation we were having.
I was on 160 radio and television programs in less than 60 days, from just before Thanksgiving through Christmas and early January of that year. I remember one of the interviews very early on, it might have been the second day of the media tour, someone was asking me, the radio host was asking me, and actually he was from my hometown, Rochester, New York, and he was asking me, “How could you do this? How could you write a book that seems to be true, but it’s fiction?”
We talked about that and he said, “What do you think is going to happen next, if you’re so insightful about the future?” We talked a little bit about where I thought we might be going in terms of a war with Iraq and how that might happen and why. Then he said, “I don’t understand, Joel, your name is Rosenberg?” I said, “Right.” He said, “That’s Jewish, isn’t it?” I said, “Yes, it is, on my father’s side.” He said, “But your characters, some of them in this book, are talking about Jesus, aren’t they?” I said, “Yes, they are.” He says, “What are you, an Evangelical? A born again?” He thought that was nutty. I said, “Yes, I do believe that Jesus is the Messiah, so yes.” He said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. How can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus?”
I was not prepared for that question. It’s a nice question to be asked, and I’ll own that question, but I did not imagine it would be asked on day two of this Last Jihad book tour. I was a little flummoxed, honestly. Perhaps I was not always prepared to give an answer for the reason of the hope that was in me, which is not good, but nevertheless I was just caught off-guard.
I said, “Sir, it’s an interesting story, but I am sure that we don’t have time for me to explain it to you on your radio show.” He said, “Are you kidding?” He said, “It’s one thing to have a guy on my show who writes fiction that seems to come true. It’s another thing to meet a Jew who believes in Jesus. I’ve never heard of such a thing. I’m going to have you on after the break and you can tell your story.”
That began what has continued for 10 years now, not on every show, not on every interview, but with a lot of them, where people ask about the spiritual themes or the biblical themes or about my own personal life. Somehow they ask, they get interested, and I love to answer those questions, much like when Jesus was hanging on the cross and one of the thieves said, “Remember me.” It was the thief who started that spiritual conversation. I love to start a spiritual conversation if I can, but sometimes they get started by other people and I have an opportunity to respond.
John: Joel, I love that story. It’s amazing to me to think how often God has put you into these very, and perhaps sometimes precarious, situations for an amazing task. What a splendid opportunity that God has called you to be a part of. Joel, I’m wondering, oftentimes, I don’t want to say that it’s specific to the Evangelical community, but obviously that’s what we live in, so that’s what we’re going to talk about, oftentimes, within the Evangelical community, people will take a book and apply it to their own life, as if it is the Word of God itself. In other words, they might take a book and not necessarily claim that it has the same authority as the Word of God, but they will hold almost very close to it.
Within Christian fiction writing on occasion, various books have had that type of approach. People have looked at books such as yours in a biblical or prophetical fictional writings and said, “This is how things are going to pan out.” How do you, as a follower of Jesus, how do you approach someone with that type of thought behind them?
Joel: That’s a good question. I can’t say that I have met a lot of people, in person anyway, that have taken my books and thought that my novels were the way it was going to be. That could be happening. They’re not writing to me and I’m not meeting them.
One of the things that fiction allows me to do is play out a scenario of what could happen, and therefore be able to raise a concept, an idea, a scenario in the minds of readers that they may not have thought about. For example, one of my novels, The Ezekiel Option, which was released in 2005, is about a Russian dictator rising to power and forming an alliance with Iran and a group of other Middle Eastern countries. Then they try to attack Israel. That novel is based on a prophecy, the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39, which is what Bible scholars call the War of Gog and Magog.
What really has fascinated me personally is Bible prophecy, and when I started studying the War of Gog and Magog, I was intrigued. One, because I’m from a Russian background, my family escaped out of Russia. Two, I had an opportunity to work for Benjamin Netanyahu, who, of course, is the current Prime Minister of Israel. Three, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and a student of the Scriptures, and all of those things are elements in Ezekiel 38 and 39, Russia, Israel, the Word of God.
I wrote a novel that said, “Listen, I was thinking to myself, I don’t know exactly how that prophecy is going to happen, and I can’t say that that prophecy is going to come true in my lifetime, but what if it did? What a novel allows me to do is ask what if, and in this case, what if this prophecy comes true in our lifetime, and what if it happens this particular way? Not to say that it will, but what if it did? What would that look like? What would that feel like? What might happen? What might be the implications, personally and then nationally and internationally, if those prophecies came true in our lifetime?”
That totally intrigued me, and I think it’s intrigued a lot of people. We’re almost at three million copies of these books sold, so I think it’s reasonable to say people are also interested in those questions, “What if?”
I think any good novel, certainly a political thriller, for example, the genre I’m working in, ought to start with a very compelling “What if?” scenario and if it’s compelling enough, people will read it, not because they think, “That’s the way it’s going to happen,” but they think, “Gosh, what if it did?” It gets a ball rolling to have people asking themselves, in this case, “Is Russia forming an alliance with Iran? Is there any evidence of that? Does that prophecy say that? What does that prophecy say? What do other people think about that prophecy? What do I think about that prophecy? What does that prophecy mean to me?”
It’s a prophecy most people have never spent any time thinking about. In fact, Tyndale (publisher) didn’t even want to call it The Ezekiel Option, because they thought the word Ezekiel just sounds boring. It’s supposed to be a thriller. I found it thrilling and they were ultimately persuaded.
I hope that’s helpful, at least in my perspective, on how I hope readers are looking at my novels, as thought-inducers. I can see that some people might be out there, “That’s the way it’s going to happen,” but I’m trying to… I don’t buy into that. I don’t accept that, and that’s not the goal.
Middle East Expert Joel Rosenberg Analyzes Israel/Gaza/Iran Tensions on FOX News
Published on Mar 21, 2013
John: Now you have The Damascus Countdown. This will be book three of this last trilogy, is that correct?
John: The thrill continues.
Joel: I hope so… and ends.
John: It ends, and the good guy wins.
Joel: This is the big finale.
John: Yes. The good guy wins.
John: Joel, you don’t want to give anything away here and I completely understand. Real quick here, we’re getting close to the end of time, or at least our time…
Joel: That’s true in the…
John: In the big scheme of things, that’s very true.
Joel: Who knows exactly when that ends? No one knows that day or hour, but you in your case, yes, okay, we know that.
John: Yes. Joel, you are much more than an author and a speaker. You have also been doing some unique things with the country that your father would hold dear with Israel as well. Do you want to explain a little bit about the Epicenter Conference that you did?
Joel: Sure. A few years ago, we noticed that there was so much interest in the books that people wanted to talk about these issues and talk, not about the fictional side only, but also what’s really happening. “Joel, you did work for a Prime Minister of Israel, for a Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Natan Sharansky, and for others, you interact with generals and intelligence officers and so forth, what do you see really happening in the Middle East? What is coming? What are the timelines?”
We put together a conference called the Epicenter Conference. People can learn about it at epicenterconference.com. We’re having another one, for example, this summer in Jerusalem. Sometimes we have them in Israel and sometimes we have them in the United States. Most of the videos of the speakers from the last number of years are online at epicenterconference.com, so people can watch them for free.
The short version is, they give us an opportunity to look at some of the key issues, the geopolitical issues, some of the economic issues, but also the spiritual issues, “What is God doing? We see what the enemies of the Bible are doing in the Middle East, building weapons, terrorism, and so forth, but what is God doing?” We’ve interviewed Jewish believers, Iranian believers, Arab believers, former terrorists. It’s given us a forum to talk about what is really happening in that part of the world, not just from a geopolitical angle or an economic angle, but also through what I call the third lens of Scripture.
That’s now tied together, these conferences, with the ministry that my wife and I started seven years ago, called The Joshua Fund, which is a ministry to mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. We educate people around the world, mostly Christians, about what’s happening in Israel and the Middle East, and what God’s plan and purpose is for the people of that region, but we also then do practical work. We provide food and clothing and medical supplies and other humanitarian relief to the poor and needy. We do that mostly through local believers, though we also are connected to government, mayors, and welfare agencies and so forth.
The idea is to help Christians understand what’s happening, but then give them a chance to make a difference. We also teach the word of God. We do pastors' training, trying to strengthen the local believers to be a light in the darkness. The bottom line of that, John, is that I don’t want to just write novels about what might happen or what will happen but we don’t know exactly will happen. I don’t want to just write fiction. These things are real. People are really in the midst of war and suffering. I want to try, as best I can to, mobilize people to make a difference, to be a blessing, to be a witness for the Lord in the place where He’s going to come back to anyway. That is an important element of what I do.
Fortunately we’ve got a great team that God has helped us build, and so I don’t have to do all that myself. It’s been exciting to help build that team and lead it, even as I try to keep my focus primarily on the writing of these novels.
John: Joel, thank you so much for taking the time to talk.
Joel: My pleasure.
Damascus Countdown - Joel C. Rosenberg
This post was posted in Books, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, C.S. Lewis, Catholic, Joel Rosenberg, Methodist, Josh McDowell, ABC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, 9/11
Posted on March 19, 2013 by Family Christian
Alister McGrath is one of the world's leading Christian theologians. He is Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at King's College London, and Head of its Center for Theology, Religion and Culture. Before moving to King's College, he was Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University.
Like Lewis, Alister was born in Belfast, and became an atheist as a young man, before rediscovering the Christian faith at Oxford University. His deep knowledge of Christian theology, history, and literature allowed him to interpret Lewis against a broad backdrop, presenting a fascinating portrait of the development of Lewis's mind and his impact on western culture.
1. What stimulated your interest in writing a new biography of C. S. Lewis?
I started reading Lewis in the 1970s, when I was a student at Oxford University, and my admiration for him has grown over the years. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of his death, and it seemed right to mark the occasion with a new biography.
2. Describe the parallels between your own spiritual journey and that of Lewis.
Lewis and I have many things in common. We were both born in Belfast and spent our childhoods there. We were both students and then dons at Oxford University. Both of us were atheists who discovered Christianity at Oxford. And we both try to defend Christianity against its critics. I think these parallels made it easier for me to understand Lewis.
3. You note that in the late 1940s, the famed “Kilns” where Lewis and his brother, Warnie, lived had become a dysfunctional household. What created the tension, and how did this affect Lewis’s writing?
Lewis shared The Kilns with his brother, Warnie, Mrs. Moore, and her daughter, Maureen. Maureen left home after her marriage in 1940. Shortly after this, it became obvious that Warnie had become an alcoholic, and Mrs. Moore began to develop dementia. By the late 1940s, Lewis found himself acting as a full-time nurse to Mrs. Moore (who could no longer look after herself) while trying to cope with his brother’s frequent absences on alcoholic binges in Ireland and their aftermath. It was unquestionably one of the darkest periods of his life.
4. Lewis was regarded by many of his academic colleagues at Oxford with suspicion or derision during that same period. Why did he experience such academic hostility?
There were two sources of concern to Lewis’s academic colleagues at Oxford in the 1940s. The first was Lewis’s explicit commitment to Christianity, which irritated the more dogmatic academic atheists of his day. Yet the evidence suggests that this was not the major concern. Academic hostility towards Lewis really began to develop in the early 1940s, and largely rested on the perception that he had become a populariser rather than a serious scholar. This impression arose primarily as a result of The Screwtape Letters. These were seen by many of his colleagues as academically frivolous and lightweight. Lewis would probably have got away with this, if he had produced some major academic works around this time. But it was not until 1954 that Lewis produced a really serious piece of scholarship, which restored his academic reputation and helped secure his appointment as Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University.
5. One of the most compelling aspects of your research involves the redating of Lewis’s conversion to theism. What led you to reexamine this chronology?
I did not expect to raise questions about the traditional dating of Lewis’s conversion to theism. Yet the method of research I used forced me to this conclusion. In preparation for this work, I read everything that Lewis wrote in chronological order. After I had read everything for 1929—the traditional date of his “conversion”—I was puzzled. Nothing fundamental seemed to have changed.
Yet beginning in February 1930, his writings show obvious signs of some kind of reorientation. I then examined the evidence for the traditional date of his conversion in minute detail, and concluded—for reasons set out clearly in the biography—that his conversion must have taken place a year later than everyone had believed. I think this is the most significant finding reported in the biography.
6. In the course of your research, you conducted a complete, chronological analysis of the entire collection of Lewis’s letters and archives. How long did this take you?
This took me fifteen months and involved long periods of reading and note-taking. But it was fascinating, seeing how Lewis’s ideas and style developed and how his authorial “voice” emerged. I took the view that you simply could not write a biography of Lewis without reading his total output.
One result of this is that I quote from Lewis more than many of his earlier biographers so that my readers can hear Lewis’s voice, and not simply my own. I also explored archives, mainly in Oxford, and was able to turn up some important material never used by Lewis’s biographers that casts new light on his life, especially during the 1910s.
7. Many readers are fascinated by the love relationship late in life between Lewis and Joy Davidman Gresham. You quote her son Douglas as stating that his mother originally went to England with one specific intention: “To seduce C. S. Lewis.” How did he come to assess the situation in that manner?
Douglas Gresham bases his judgment on his memories of his mother from that time. We don’t know quite what led him to that judgment, but the evidence now available confirms his suspicions. It is clear from some of Joy’s writings of the period—especially a collection of “Sonnets” that have only very recently come to light—that she actively set out to seduce Lewis. We can hope to have some fine new biographies of Joy from significant scholars in the near future which will explore this matter in much greater detail.
8. You write that Joy’s marriage to Jack was, in Lewis’s view, purely a marriage of convenience at first. At what point did Lewis’s feelings for her begin to change?
Lewis initially saw his clandestine civil marriage to Joy as a chivalrous act which would enable her to remain in England and develop her career as a journalist and writer. The evidence strongly suggests that Lewis’s feelings towards Joy began to change when he became conscious that she was seriously ill. The realization that he might soon lose her seems to have triggered a deep sense of compassionand care, resulting in a romantic love for Joy that doesn’t seem to have been present earlier. It’s hard to date this development, but it’s clearly reflected in a letter Lewis wrote to the novelist Dorothy L. Sayers in June 1957.
9. The friendship between Lewis and Tolkien cooled as the years progressed. Why did Tolkien’s views about Lewis darken?
The relationship between Lewis and Tolkien was of major importance to both throughout the 1930s and into the early 1940s. The cooling seems to have taken place mainly on Tolkien’s side, reflecting three issues. The first was what seems to have been jealousy on Tolkien’s part about the growing influence that the novelist Charles Williams had on Lewis in the early 1940s. This was alleviated somewhat with Williams’s death in 1945. The second emerged in the early 1950s, when Tolkien began to suspect that Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia borrowed some of his own ideas without due acknowledgment. Third, Tolkien regarded Lewis’s views of marriage as inadequate and was dismayed by Lewis marrying a divorcée and hurt by the fact that Lewis failed to tell him about it. In any case, Tolkien cordially detested Joy personally. Yet Lewis always respected and admired Tolkien. One of my discoveries in researching this biography was a hitherto unknown letter in which Lewis proposed Tolkien for the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature, which clearly reflects this high regard.
10. Lewis’s death on November 22, 1963, was overshadowed in the media by the assassination of John F. Kennedy. How are we to judge Lewis’s life and legacy fifty years after his death?
The most important thing is that more people read Lewis today than at any point in his lifetime. Although many—including Lewis himself—believed that his influence and reputation would quickly fade after his death, Lewis has bounced back. Partly this reflects the imaginative appeal of the Chronicles of Narnia, particularly now that some of the novels have been turned into major movies. But there is also substantial interest in Lewis’s literary and religious writings, some of which have established themselves as “classics.” My biography provides a solid base for future exploration of Lewis’s legacy, which I think is going to be significant for some considerable time to come.
To download and read the first chapter of C.S. Lewis - A Life, just right click and "save as" here.
A CS Lewis Biography
Posted on October 22, 2012 by Family Christian
The following is an excerpt taken from Surfing For God by Michael Cusick.
Have you ever wondered what makes a certain act sinful and another not sinful? Why is it wrong to lie? Or kill? Or commit adultery? Who says viewing porn is wrong when our culture tries to reassure us that it’s natural and normal—in fact, based on popular consumption and the ten-billion-dollar industry it generates, you’re abnormal if you don’t view porn!
One way of thinking about why something is sinful is to respond, “It says in the Bible that it’s wrong.” While true, God put dos and don’ts into the Bible because they reveal something much deeper about us. When God tells us not to commit adultery, He is telling us that doing this goes against our design. “Do not commit adultery” is God’s version of “Do not brush your teeth with a toaster” or “Do not grill steaks on a block of ice.” It just can’t accomplish what it was designed to do. Like sailing the seven seas in a Chevy pickup—it doesn’t get the job done, and you put yourself at great risk.
Or consider porn this way. Wouldn’t it be rather odd if a trained fighter pilot never left the hangar for fear of not knowing how to fly the jet? Or consider a gifted sculptor who never picked up his hammer and chisel because he couldn’t find the perfect block of marble.
What if a major-league baseball player didn’t show up for practice because he spent all his time playing baseball on his Xbox? Or a master shipbuilder never sailed the open waters because his fantasy of the perfect seaworthy vessel kept him on dry ground?
This is what porn is like. It allures us with the image or fantasy of being with a woman, while preventing us from being able to actually engage with a real woman. Porn keeps us from flying the jet, getting in the game, or sailing the high seas. All because we settle for something that doesn’t exist and will never satisfy us.
So how does porn go against our design as men and sabotage God’s dream for us to live out our true identities? C. S. Lewis spoke to the heart of this question when he wrote about the soul damage caused by sexual fantasy (whether through masturbation or pornography) and what he called “imaginary women.” Lewis described these imaginary women this way: “Always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadow brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.”
Lewis began with the assumption that sex is good, not bad—a gift to be enjoyed within God-designed boundaries. He also framed his words against the backdrop that “the main work of life is to come up and out of ourselves.” Lewis assumed that God designed us to mature and become less focused on ourselves and more focused on loving others. When we fixate on porn, we choose to remain selfishly anchored to our own pleasure above all else. When we preoccupy ourselves with meeting our own needs and ignoring the needs of others—in this case, our wives, flesh-and-blood women, and not some Photoshopped model—then we stifle our spiritual growth. Lewis summed up the problem with pornography this way: “In the end, [imaginary women] become the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. After all, the main work of life is to come out of ourselves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. . . . All things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.”
Lewis calls us to remember what a man is made for: our deepest longing is to know God in the center of our being, and out of that place to offer ourselves for the sake of others. Augustine taught about the theological idea of incurvatus se—a life turned in on itself. Porn successfully accomplishes this—it causes our soul to turn in on itself in self-absorbed isolation and shame. It diminishes our souls. It seduces a man to use women to meet a need in himself—without meeting any of her needs. And this act of “using” comes not only at her expense but also at the devastating cost of his own heart. We don’t realize the price we pay until we feel empty and bankrupt inside.
You were created for something bigger than yourself.
You were created for excurvatus se—a life lived outward. Not outward as in codependent or being a martyr. Not dying to self in a way where legitimate needs are neglected. But a life that flows from a deep source. A life that bears fruit. A life lived outwardly enhances, builds up, and causes the heart to flourish. Donald Miller has suggested that we are trees in the story of a forest. And that story of the forest is better than the story of the trees.5 Pornography perverts and upends this idea with titillating images that invite us to live as if the story of the trees were the only story, and the story of the forest doesn’t exist.
The purpose of this book is to go beyond the common “Just don’t do it” strategy of sin management. Together, we will explore the truth of how you were meant to live and how you can get there so you can enjoy a new and better life in the forest. I invite you to stop looking at pictures of F-18s in combat and ships on the high seas, or playing baseball on your Xbox instead of eating the dust of a real baseball diamond. We’ll do much more than that. You’ll discover the thrill of getting into the game, flying the F-18, and sailing the ship so that pornography and lust lose their grip on your soul.
Please read closely: the deepest truth about you is that you are the F-18 pilot, created for combat. God designed you to be a hero— to focus your strength and courage on behalf of something and someone bigger than yourself. You are the major-league ballplayer, created with the offensive and defensive abilities to get in the game with a team of others on a common mission. God uniquely fashioned you to win games. To hit home runs. To steal bases. God chose you to play on His team.Adapted from Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle by Michael Cusick. Copyright ©2012. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Posted on September 5, 2012 by John van der Veen
With strokes of his upbringing, faith, experiences and relationships, Andrew Peterson creates art. Like an intricate oil painting, the nuances, layers and textures combine to create something distinct and deep. But to Andrew, it’s just part of the process… down to the very DNA of the lyrics.
Family Christian: So tell us a little about Andrew Peterson. Where are you from, what’s your family look like?
Andrew Peterson: I’ve been married 17 years and have 3 kids who are 13, 12 and 9. I was born in Illinois (basically in a corn field), then when I was 7 we moved to what I lovingly call “redneck Florida.” So I went from having a sort of golden-boy-Midwestern childhood to [the] deep south, ya know? [With] all of the good and bad and wonderful things that come with a southern childhood. My dad is a pastor and he still preaches at the same town that I grew up in north Florida. I ended up randomly going to Bible college. Not for any noble reason, mainly because it was affordable and I couldn’t think of anything else to do (laughs). So I went to Bible college and fell in love with it almost immediately. I met my wife there, got a Bible degree, put out an indie record then moved to Nashville where I’ve been making records ever since.
FC: Which Bible college?
Andrew: It was called Florida Christian College in Kissimmee/Orlando. Just a small, really conservative Bible college within my “non-denominational denomination.” (laughs)
FC: (Laughs) You may be the first person who has publicly made that into an official denomination…
Andrew: I coined it! Yes!
FC: Would you consider Florida to be southern living?
Andrew: Oh yes, at least the part of Florida that I lived in. Florida is a funny place. I maintain that it is the weirdest state in the United States – and I mean that in a good way. I didn’t like it when I was a kid, but now that I’m a writer and part of my life involves telling stories, I feel like I could not have grown up in a richer story-telling culture than Florida. It’s this kind of strange convergence of beach culture and retired people and snowbirds and Cuban-Puerto Rican culture. If you drive about 15 minutes inland from the beach or out of any town, you’re in this swampy, unique kind of country, [with] racism and southern hospitality and Bible belt stuff and it’s just a really fascinating place. I’ve gotten to [this place that] now that I’m older, I’ve started reading books by southern authors because I’m so fascinated by the cultures there. Everybody from Flannery O’Connor to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and people like that. And so I’m really grateful. I never want it to sound like I’m talking bad about my home state but it is bizarre and I’m just delighted by that.
FC: Do people in north Florida eat grits or biscuits and gravy?
Andrew: Oh yes, as often as possible. My little town is called Lake Butler and it has three generations of family sheriffs. There’s a railroad track and the white people lived on one side and the black people lived on the other. There was a poured house and a little drug store where farmers in overalls would talk in the heat of the day and my dad is a southern preacher which means that he paces a lot and occasionally little flecks of spittle. It was exactly what you would imagine a “deep south childhood” would look like. So yeah, I think that may be part of where my love for storytelling came from. All you have to do is sit on the porch for a few minutes and eavesdrop on my dad’s conversations and you hear the most colorful, beautiful language – good stories. It’s a farm culture and yeah, I couldn’t wait to escape it when I was a boy, but now that I’m a grown up I live in a metropolitan area and the older I get the more I’ve started calling my mom and dad and asking them how to grow tomatoes and how to keep the deer out of the pumpkin patch (that sort of thing), and so yeah, I feel like it’s a part of who I am.
FC: Did you meet Rich Mullins?
Andrew: I did. Just 2 or 3 times, and each time it was in a really unadulterated fan context. I shook his hand and told him I loved him and passed him a demo. That kind of thing. It’s funny, I had just finished recording my independent record in college. I was 22.
FC: Was that The Walk?
Andrew: Yeah, and it’s terrible. When I go back and listen to it, I can hardly listen to it because it’s so bad in so many ways. But at the time, when you’re 22 you feel like you’re the king of the world and I thought “Man, I’m going to give this CD to Rich Mullins and he’s going to love it and we’re going to become friends!” But he died a year later so I never had a chance to live down how bad the demo was. I later became friends with Mitch McVicker who was friends with Rich’s touring partner back at the time and I was always really self-conscious that I had met them both at this geeky fan phase so I didn’t let on that I’d already met Mitch before. Years later when we started doing shows together I was like “man, do you know that we met before we started traveling together?” and he was like “oh yeah, I remember, it was at your college in Florida” and I was horrified! I said “Ahhh! No! You don’t by chance remember that I gave you a demo CD do you? And he said “yeah”, so I said, “you guys didn’t ever hear it did you? And he goes “yeah… we hated it.” (laughs) So I thought that was delightful. There’s a part of me that’s like maybe it’s a small mercy that I didn’t meet Rich because it would have been the worst thing to find out that he couldn’t stand me, ya know? (laughs) [This way] I can pretend that maybe we would have been friends.
Andrew: Yes, definitely. I’ve kind of jokingly said that Rich’s music rescued me from Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was in a rock band the year after high school, touring around, but it never ever would have crossed my mind that I wanted to do Christian music because I grew up in this goofy paradigm that meant being in the ministry meant being a pastor, or a missionary. And I didn’t want to be either of those things so I just thought, well, I guess I don’t want to be in the ministry. So hearing Rich’s music around that time opened my eyes to how powerful a song can be. C.S. Lewis described stories this way, he said that stories could “sneak past peoples’ watchful dragons.” The idea is that a sermon will hit you head-on but art can flank you, surprise you and flip truth behind your lines when you least expect it. I think that’s what happened with Rich’s music and me. I wasn’t terribly interested in the Gospel. Ya know, I would have told you that I was a Christian but I was really struggling and really trying to find my way and then I heard this Rich Mullins song that captivated me with its poetry and the roughness that I heard in his voice. He was a smoker – I didn’t know it at the time – but I heard something broken in his voice. Emotionally and physically for that matter. So that brokenness was more beautiful to me than any of the slick stuff I had heard in Christian music. And it really drew me in. What I heard was loneliness and some sadness and a deep longing, and all of that resonated with me. I felt like he was singing the way my heart felt. It was because he was willing to be honest about his own struggle and the truth about Who Jesus really is. That woke-up something in me. It took all of those Bible stories that I had grown up with over the years and my love for The Lord of the Rings and adventure stories and all of those things converged in the songs of Rich Mullins and I found something that I’d never found before. So ever since then, every time I sit down to write a song, I’m trying to get close to the feet of those mountains. If I can write something like “The Color Green” by Rich Mullins or “Copperline” by James Taylor or “Graceland” by Paul Simon I think it’s good for a songwriter to keep listening to the masters. To ask yourself “well how in the world did they write songs that move me like this?” Every time you sit down you’re probably going to fail but you gotta at least try, ya know? So I’m always trying to get back to the way that I felt sitting on the side of a mountain in east Tennessee and listening to Rich Mullins music. So that’s what I’m shooting for, whether or not I ever attain it.
FC: So then you met Derek Webb… or he found you? How did that work?
Andrew: (laughs) That was back when the internet was relatively new and I was waiting tables at the Olive Garden here in Nashville. We had just moved here. Jamie and I were childless, poor and working really hard. I couldn’t get any bookings. One night I discovered this band, Caedmon’s Call, and I really liked their music. I think I discovered them because of their friendship with Rich Mullins. I think that’s how I ended up finding their website. I ended up posting something online about how their songwriting and music was really the first thing that had moved me like that since I’d heard Rich Mullins’ music. I included a link to my really lame website, and Derek followed the link and read my lyrics and he really liked them. He saw something in them and I ended up meeting them later at a concert and he remembered me and I said, can I open for you guys? And he said yes. That was basically the beginning of my music career. (laughs) I don’t know why he said yes, he’d never heard me play a song before. Never heard what I sounded like live. But for whatever reason, they happened to not have an opener like a week later so I got to drive out to west Tennessee and play a show with them. A month later I was on the tour bus.
FC: Wow and now you’re getting ready to release your 12th or 13th album?
Andrew: Well if you included all of the little side projects [I’ve done] it would be about that many, but it’s either the 8th or 9th full-length studio record, I can’t remember.
FC: Ok, before talk about the new album, let’s talk a second about this “Square Peg Alliance” group you created. What is it?
Andrew: Well, it’s funny, The Square Peg Alliance is not as active as it was maybe 3 or 4 years ago. Basically, I didn’t start it – it was just something that grew sort of organically at our little songwriting community here in Nashville. In reaction to how a lot of us had been on Christian record labels, some of us had had radio play and then as the industry started to change we all found ourselves not “pop-Christian” enough to get by in the Christian world and “too Christian-y” to ever have a chance to get by in the mainstream world. And so we didn’t know what to do other than lock arms with each other and just try to help each other survive and stick to the calling of the type of songs we were writing. We kinda jokingly named ourselves the Square Peg Alliance. Ya know, all we did was give a name to this thing that was already happening. The same thing is still happening, we just don’t officially gather under that name anymore.
FC: Did the Rabbit Room kind of morph out of that?
Andrew: The Rabbit Room didn’t morph out of it, but it came for the same love for community. Ya know, I went to England and saw the pub where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams and their buddies used to get together and read their stories. And around that time I read a book about the Pixar company and I started to recognize that really good art thrives in the confines of community. We had some of that happening with music already, but I was writing my books and I wanted to grow into a better writer – and I knew a lot of people who wanted to do that same thing. So The Rabbit Room was kind of an experiment in community. We thought, what happens if we get some authors and pastors and songwriters and artists all joined together with the hopes that we’ll learn to make excellent work? And invite people into that conversation and see what happens? So we didn’t really have a clear direction, I just bought the domain name and made the website and invited some friends to be a part of it, and that was about 5 years ago. It’s doing really well. It’s been a pleasant surprise at almost every turn.
FC: And so now you’ve written 3 books?
Andrew: I’m [currently] writing my 4th book.
FC: Obviously you’re an artist, but do you have a preference between writing music or books? Is one easier for you?
Andrew: Um, I think that the easier one is whichever one I’m not doing. (laughs) Yeah, it’s all hard. There’s a part of me that really loves the book making process. Part of that is because I can stay home, it doesn’t involve a lot of travel, [it’s] a slowing down. It’s work, but it isn’t frantic work. Being on the road, playing music, there’s a lot of travel and deadlines and craziness, whereas book writing is probably more diligent work. It just doesn’t take me away from my wife and kids, so I really love that. With that said, I’m supposed to be writing book 4 right now but it’s been like trying to push-start a semi truck. Like I’ve had a really hard time mustering the discipline to really dig into it, so ya know, it’s all really hard, man. (laughs) It’s like planting the garden, the only way to get good fruit is to sweat and bleed for it, so that’s where I am right now.
FC: But maybe that’s due to the fact that you have a new record coming out too…
Andrew: Well, that’s part of it. I have been pretty busy with the record thing. I feel a little bit creatively capped ya know, from writing the songs probably too quickly. So that’s part of it. If I’m really honest with myself I am also just trying to avoid it because it’s a lot of work. (laughs) When I was in Bible college I wanted to be a youth minister because I thought he was the one who did the least amount of work in the church. (laughs) I did it for a year and realized that the opposite is true. So I quit [youth ministry] thinking, well maybe I can get out of doing work if I play music. And that wasn’t really true either.
FC: You’ve touched on various themes in your previous records… What is the name of the new record, and is there an overarching theme?
Andrew: The name of the record is Light for the Lost Boy. And if there was a theme (I think the title kind of sums it up), [it’s that] a lot of the songs on this record are about growing up. There are a lot of aspects to what it means to grow up. There’s the exit from Eden, this aspect of childhood that we are all kind of exiled from as we sin and grow old which creates this longing for restoration. There’s this longing for Jesus to hurry up and come back, to let us enter this Kingdom where we’ll have undying bodies [without] the pain of age or wasting away. Ya know, the effects that occur. There’s a lot of longing wrapped up in [this record]. I’m just trying to figure it out myself too. I don’t know. I’m watching my kids teeter into adolescence and the conversations with them have gotten more difficult. It’s not like we’re having problems with them, [it’s just the] preparing them for the world they’re growing into. It’s been pretty sad for me. I mean, I’m excited because they’re amazing kids and I think they’re going to do great things for the Kingdom, but at the same time, I’m grieving a little because I know that part of the process, the discipline that we receive as children of the King is sometimes painful. They’re going to make mistakes. The older they’ve gotten the more I’ve remembered my own childhood, ya know? I remember the sweetness of it, but I also remembered some of the moments that have continued to cause me pain over the years. So I’m guessing that’s why so many of the songs deal with childhood and the longing for restoration. But honestly I don’t know. I’m trying to be better about writing the songs I write and letting the listener add his or her own DNA to the thing. Most of us have seen the movie Jurassic Park, but I don’t know if you remember the scene where they’re going through the ride and the little computer thing is animating how they recreated dinosaurs from the DNA they found in the mosquitoes. And it shows these cartoon DNA strands and they’re like, well, we couldn’t really complete the DNA strands from the dinosaur so we used some from a turtle (I think or maybe it was a lizard) to complete the DNA and we created these dinosaurs. And I think songwriting and art are like that. My songs are these strands of my own DNA but there are all of these holes in them, like the songs aren’t a complete story. So the listener then brings his own DNA to the song and it begins to mean something specific to him or her. I remember that happened with “Dancing in the Minefields” this song about my marriage. The first line is “I was 19 and you were 21 the year we got engaged…” And I’ve gotten so many emails from people who are like “your story is just like my story, she was 19 and I was 21 the year we got married” and those details aren’t right at all! (laughs) They got the numbers backwards and they got the engagement and the wedding different because these people have brought their own story to my song so much so that the details of my song becomes irrelevant. So I’m hoping that with this record that whatever I meant by it will only be the beginning of the story for what the songs do in the heart of the people who are hearing it.
FC: What music are you enjoying lately?
Andrew: I have been listening to a lot of the new – I’m trying to be careful not to say anything “bad” because I’m talking to Family Christian (laughs) – I’ve been listening to the new Bon Iver record a lot. As soon as I said that I remembered there’s a bad word in one of the songs. There’s a band called Fleet Foxes that my sons and I really like. It’s really creative, almost classical sounding folk music, “chamber folk” is what some people call it I think. And then there’s this new Ben Shive record, he’s the guy who produced my new album – he’s really great. There’s this guy Josh Garrels, he’s great. We’ve connected and I tried to talk him into the Christmas tour this year. His wife is going to have a baby right before the tour so he couldn’t do it, but I’m a huge fan of his. Josh makes me feel the way I felt when I listened to Rich Mullins, I think Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) is like that too. There are very few people who have such great music that is so unabashedly about the gospel. I think Josh is one of those guys. Man, when I’m jogging and I hear his music, sometimes I “ugly cry.” (laughs) He’s so explicit about the God that he’s singing to and about. I’m deeply moved by that. So there’s a short list.
FC: What kind of dog is your pet, Moon Dog?
Andrew: (laughs) He is a Great Pyrenees. He’s a white, bushy, sheep-herding kind of dog. That’s Moon Dog. He’s white so he’s easy to see when he runs around at night. I also have to say, my father-in-law worked for NASA back around the time of the Apollo missions, he lived right there in Cocoa Beach where all of the astronauts were and sort of ‘lived among them.’ So [he] had a dog named Moon Doggie because he was working on the moon mission. And I always thought that was a great name, so when we got this dog I liked the idea of Moon Dog Jr.
FC: Well Andrew, thanks for talking with us today. We can’t wait to hear the new album.
Andrew: I can’t wait for you to hear it either. Thanks so much for doing this.
To look into some of the artists that Andrew mentioned in the interview, follow these links: