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I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in growing in that way. But if I keep winning donuts in my grocery store’s monopoly game, well, I suppose that could happen. Another way to grow is to grow in debt. I can pull out my credit card and have a pretty happy day, buying myself all that I’ve always wanted. Though I don’t think I’d be all that happy when my credit card bill arrived in my mailbox. My point is, we grow what we feed. So, what I’d really like to feed is my love and adoration for the Lord. For one thing, the more I grow in my faith, the larger God becomes to me and the smaller my problems seem in comparison. Psalm 145 gives us a crash course on how to grow in our understanding of God with several tips, the first of which is to add praise to our lives. The Psalmist writes, “I will highly praise you, my God, the king. I will bless your name forever and ever. I will bless you every day” (verses 1-2, GW). A couple of verses later, the Psalmist teaches us to recount God’s great deeds: “I will think about the glorious honor of your majesty and the miraculous things you have done” (verse 5, GW). Next, the Psalmist lists God’s wonderful

@lindashepherd attributes, “The Lord is merciful, compassionate, patient, and always ready to forgive” (verse 8, GW). The Psalmist takes our understanding of the Lord a step further when he shows us God’s great mercy toward us: “The Lord supports everyone who falls. He straightens the backs of those who are bent over” (verse 14, GW). My favorite part of this Scripture passage reminds me that even though God is great, with great deeds and wonderful attributes, God is also a God who helps me when I fall. But best of all, God is a God who wants to be near to me. ME! The Psalmist explains: “The Lord is near to everyone who prays to him, to every faithful person who prays to him. He fills the needs of those who fear him. He hears their cries for help and saves them. The Lord protects everyone who loves him” (verses 18-20, GW). Wow! This is a God I can respect, a God I can praise and brag about. This is a God Who demonstrates His love for me. The fact that He cares about me is amazing. And just as He cares for me, He also cares for you. May you grow in your faith and in your understanding of God’s greatness and His great love for you. S Love, LINDA EVANS SHEPHERD PUBLISHER, LEADING HEARTS MAGAZINE

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EDITORIAL STAFF PUBLISHER....................Linda Evans Shepherd EDITOR/ART DIRECTOR. ....Amber Weigand-Buckley COPY EDITORS...............Julie Gillies & Tom Young ADVERTISING............ Linda Evans Shepherd & Aisha Cox EDITORIAL SECRETARY..... Aisha Cox CONTRIBUTORS..... Penelope Carlevato, Kathy Collard Miller, Liz Curtis Higgs, Michelle S. Cox, Deb DeArmond, Sharon Norris Elliott, Pam Farrel, Bethany Jett, Karen Porter, Rhonda Rhea, Cynthia L. Simmons, Saundra Dalton Smith, Terri Stafford, Jennifer Taylor, Heather Van Allen and Karen H. Whiting.

RIGHT TO THE HEART BOARD MEMBERS Linda Evans Shepherd (President), Dianne Butts, Sharon Norris Elliott, Kathy Collard Miller, Karen Porter, Rhonda Rhea, Carole Whang Schutter and Joy A. Schneider

INFORMATION Leading Hearts Magazine for Christian Women is published bimonthly by Right to the Heart Ministries 2017. ISSN 2380-5455 ADVERTISING | Display rates are available at By accepting an advertisement, Leading Hearts does not endorse any advertiser or product. We reserve the right to reject advertisements not consistent with the magazines objectives. MANUSCRIPTS | Writers guidelines are available at Leading Hearts | PO Box 6421, Longmont, CO 80501 phone: (303) 835-8473 | fax: (303)678-0260 email: MEMBER | 2016 Evangelical Press Association Award of Merit Winner Copyright ©2017 Right to the Heart Ministries. All rights reserved. Copyrighted material reprinted with permission Photos courtesy of:,, PureFlix, Hoganson Media Relations, Kerry Kara Photography /KLS Photos & Imaging, and


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INGH to 95 E A R T 5 S 7 7 Mob for F ile Si R EE sterh ood Supp ort!



remember how his voice had the capacity to calm you as happy little autumn trees received a healthy dabbing of yellow ochre. Bob was the first creative to teach me that in a world of happy little trees there can be no accidents because there’s always room for another—well, you know—tree. So I guess it’s because of Bob that I’m so dedicated to the fine art of planting... and by planting I mean storing that extra bit of leafy greens from lunch in between my teeth. It’s the only fail-safe place I can rely on for a consistent source of daily watering. There was a time I was very self-conscious about my face plants, especially when I had to stand in front of an audience. But they didn’t bring joy into a moment until I got really comfortable with letting them shine. Today, I find my face plants are generally a great icebreaker, especially if, like me, you like to smile really wide. I’ve met some of my life-long friends proceeding the comment “What’s that in your teeth?” “Spinach. I’m storing for the winter when produce prices go up.” Then the strangest thing seems to happen— people realize I am HUMAN. And bonus: they realize it’s okay to be equally human. Bob transformed my journey with his happy little accidents philosophy: “You’ll look at what you’re doing, and you’ll see things, and they’ll just sort of happen. And you learn to take advantage

@barefacedgurl of whatever happens and use it to make it your painting special. You can do that.” And that’s what I love about face planting. The ultimate pull up to the glory of God in all things is our willingness to put shame and pride aside. So here are just a few things that I have learned about perfecting the art of face planting 1. Do not let the buzzing insects of shame or ridicule infest your face plants. Fear of failure or embarrassment or self-shame has the capacity eat up your growth potential. 2. Learn what success, not perfection, looks like through God’s eyes and use that as your pocket compost. Start with Proverbs 16:3 to tap into essential nutrients for your day: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (NIV). 3. Water your day by giving grace to other face planters like yourself, and ask God to help you see your potential, greenery and all, through His eyes. In fact, I’ve even established my face plant mission: At least if I fall on my face, I’ll give someone else something to laugh about... and that right there is ministry. Not to mention a bit of healthy stress-reducing cardio. I pray as you read this issue of Leading Hearts, you’ll get that extra pinch of insight, motivation, and encouragement you need to Grow On! S


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MAYBE YOU’VE TAKEN A BLOOM-WHERE-YOU’RE PLANTED APPROACH TO MINISTRY. YOU’VE STAYED GROUNDED IN YOUR PROVEN GIFTS, CONTENT WITH SLOW BUT STEADY GROWTH. Season after season, God has faithfully added nutrients to the soil around your roots, watering and pruning and fertilizing and mulching. Certain of your calling, you’ve sensed the warmth of His pleasure, like sunlight pouring across your shoulders on a spring afternoon. Not your story? Maybe you’ve felt a certain restlessness stirring inside, like roots cramped in a too-small pot. You have a deep longing to do more for God—something scarier, something riskier. When ministry friends talk about serving Him in radically different ways, you lean in, wondering if God might be tugging at your well-established roots, preparing to lift you out of the familiar and replant you where you can truly flourish. How can we sort out when it’s time to stretch out our branches and grow in our speaking and writing, our leading and serving?

1. Ask yourself some hard questions. Is your desire for growth based on coveting or on calling? Do you want what someone else has or do you want to go wherever God might plant you, even if it means a more weed-infested corner of the garden—or a quieter one? God alone is the Master Gardener, Who manages our ministries according to His divine design. “I, the Lord, bring down the tall tree and raise up the lowly tree, and make the green tree wither and the dry tree bloom” (Ezekiel 17:24, CEB). 2. Stay in God’s Word and pray for His leading. Rather than charge ahead, study the Scriptures and pray until He makes the way clear. As Jesus told His disciples, “the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15, NIV). It’s the persevering part that’s often the hardest, yet it’s also the most important. By waiting, we learn patience. By praying, we discover peace. Who doesn’t need more of both? 3. Seek wise counsel. Sit down with a trustworthy peer who has a few more seasons of growth behind her, and give her permission to be completely honest. I once shared a ministry dream with a friend who told me, “Liz, what I’m sensing is pride.” Hard as that was to hear, she was right. Furthermore, had that dream come true, it soon

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-continued from p. 9would have turned into a nightmare. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6, NIV), especially when that friend knows you well and has a deep walk with God. 4. Avoid public opinion. Nothing gets us off track faster than listening to what everybody and their sister have to say. If others affirm what you’ve sensed from the Lord, have read in His Word, and have heard from wise counselors, all well and good. But steer clear from seeking feedback on social media or among a wide group of acquaintances. People “delight in airing their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2, NIV), but God’s opinion is the only one that matters. 5. Give your fears to God (and tell the Enemy to take a hike). Fear is one of the Adversary’s favorite ways to distract and discourage. Often double-wrapped in guilt and shame, it can make you afraid to take even a tiny step of faith, let alone a leap. Before sharing a new message this spring, I poured out all my concerns. “Lord, I’m afraid I don’t have enough material. Or too much material. I’m afraid it’s too heavy for a Friday night. Or the opening story won’t work. Or—” He quickly stopped me in my tracks with the words of His Son: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, NIV). I changed my prayer at once. “Lord, I am not afraid. I am excited!” And sure enough, I was.

Testament, I’m especially taken by Mary Magdalene, who rose “very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise” (Mark 16:2, NIV) and led several women to the garden tomb. The dozen men who’d traveled everywhere with Jesus were nowhere to be seen. But these women—the few, the faithful, the resourceful—were headed to His grave for one simple reason: the Lord wanted them there. You might even say He planted them there. 7. Keep an eye out for fresh green shoots. Effective ministry can’t be measured by the world’s standards—money and numbers. Instead, look for signs of life. Changed hearts, changed minds, and changed behaviors are indicators of God at work. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV). Proof of life isn’t people praising you or your gifts; it’s people praising God and telling others about Him. So, bloom where you’re planted, beloved, and trust Him to move you when it’s time. Might this be your season to grow? S

To find out more about Liz Curtis Higgs’ book The Women of Easter and more, visit

6. Find a role model in Scripture. Ruth, Esther, Abigail, the queen of Sheba—there are so many women in the Bible who show us what being brave looks like. After spending time with the Marys of the New

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never T N A L P r u o y n i T N I M n e d r ga MY DAUGHTER AND I HAVE A LARGE GARDEN WITH A CUTE PICKET FENCE AROUND IT. IN THE SPRING, WE LOVE TO DIG IN THE DIRT AND GET THE GARDEN READY FOR PLANTING. We clear out the weeds and dead plants from last year’s garden, and we shape the rows for the new crops. George, my husband and her

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father, uses a special tool for getting rid of the unwanted growth. It is a flame-weeder. Yes, you read that right. The flame-weeder is a tool that shoots flames on to the ground and reduces those weeds to ashes. It is a terrific tool, but there is one plant that it won’t get rid of—mint. A couple of years ago, we planted mint in one spot in the garden. Mint is fragrant and fast growing. It grew into a beautiful plant and smelled so sweet, and we used the herb to compliment fruits, vegetables, and meats. And what a difference a sprig or two in iced tea makes on a hot summer afternoon. We loved having mint.

Until we didn’t. Mint produces and reproduces, sending long “runners” to invade the entire garden. As we start to clear out the garden for the next crop, we find mint plants everywhere. And they are impossible to remove. Everywhere we dig, the fragrant smell assaults us.

So we now have a rule. “Never plant mint in your garden!” Jesus talked about the weeds that grow into our lives, “… all too quickly the

message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced” (Mark 4:19, NLT).

The first weed is “the worries of this life.” Worry drags us down and makes us forget that God is in control. Worry becomes anxiety and grows into burdens and fear. Working, cleaning house, never-ending laundry, keeping up with kids’ schedules and homework are the worries of life that can keep us so busy or distracted that we forget the Source of Life. Then Jesus listed the lure of riches as a weed. The problem with riches is not money or suc-

cess or possessions. The problem with riches is that it is deceitful, making us think all is well, luring us into the trap of satisfaction while forgetting God. As bait on a hook tempts a fish, we are ensnared when we love what money will buy rather than knowing God. Then Jesus said that the desire for things is a weed. When we allow our desires for more possessions or more fame or more recognition to control us, we are no longer growing good crops of love, kindness, joy, and peace. What have you planted in the open bed of your spiritual life? Has it begun to take over and send runners into every area? Jesus didn’t say for us to forget about life’s responsibilities and pleasures, but if we want a rich harvest, we will not let worries and desires take over.

let’s talk—

1. Have you ever planted mint in a garden or container? 2. What worries of life do you face? 3. What desires crowd out your desire for Jesus? 4. What do you think is your best strategy to keep the weeds out of your spiritual garden? S



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SPRING COULD BE NICKNAMED THE “CLEAN SWEEP” TIME. IT’S TIMED WELL—JUST AFTER WINTER’S DRABNESS, WHICH COULD BE DUBBED THE “LAYERED AND BURIED” SEASON. Not a boot pile in sight. When spring begins, we have a natural tendency to open the windows, toss paper piles, and look around for opportunities to freshen and organize. Or perhaps there are new habits to adopt, like making the bed daily, wiping down appliances when they’re used, or putting clothes away instead of draping them across the bed or chair. According to The Cleaning Institute, scrubbing windows, blinds, curtains, closets, and drawers top the list of spring cleaning rituals across America. And while three-fourths of Americans routine-

ly participate in spring cleaning, the jury’s out on how many follow through and actually keep their homes clean. In fact, 29 percent said they’d be willing to pay someone else $100 to do the spring cleaning for them. It’s all so discouraging. “Let me just put down this mop and read a good book….”

Why is it so hard to stay on top of it all? Change is at the heart of each of these endeavors, and the only person who really likes change is a wet baby, as my mama used to say. We become entrenched in our routine, we crave the familiar, and eventually begin to believe it’s not possible to alter that path successfully for more than a few days at a time. But God.

“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” Oh, yeah. The pesky promise that eggs us on. Regardless of what causes us to falter in the process, there is some very good news. People who explicitly make a firm decision, with a clear, specific target, are ten times more likely to attain it than those who don’t.

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“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it” (Habakkuk 2:2, NKJV). This verse speaks to my heart about the value of a vision, which is a goal yet to be achieved. A vision describes something in the future and can frustrate you when it seems you’re stuck in a Ground Hog Day version of attaining your goals. So how can we focus on successful, positive change in the months ahead?

Don’t Despise Small Beginnings (Zechariah 4:10) 0

• I’ve heard it said, “Go big or go home.” I prefer “You can’t eat the elephant in one bite.” Rather than focus on the end results you desire, commit to the habits and behaviors required to achieve your goal. If you concentrate on the big “ta-dah” at the end it can seem impossible. Inspiration comes each time you follow through, make a good choice, or experience a successful day. • Narrow it down. Identify one habit or behavior at a time and work at it for 21 days. Reassess: “How am I doing? Is it time for an additional goal?” “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT). God’s delighted when we start!

Make It Visible (Habakuk 2:2) • Create a Pinterest board to gather articles, ideas, and information to inspire your vision. Produce and post a physical vision board to motivate you daily. • If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will do. Map your journey from the start to move toward success. Measure your progress: steps taken, words written, money saved, or healthy choices.

Discover or Create Community (Proverbs 27:17) • “As

iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV). • You may need someone to talk you off the ledge. Like-minded friends can be a tremendous asset as long as collaboration is the goal. Competition or comparison can be deadly to your personal achievement—and the friendship. For nearly any change you want to make you’ll find others running the same race. Can’t find a group? Create one! • Support groups on Facebook or social media outlets can connect you to friends you’d never meet any other way. Trade resources; challenge and encourage one another.

Make it Flexible (2 Chronicles 15:7) • “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7, NIV). Life happens. Acknowledge up front there will be days your follow-through won’t happen. Don’t let shame or blame burst your determination bubble. • Be prepared. Review your upcoming week and plan for busy or challenging days. A plan prevents a problem. • Remember that change is not a black and white process. Participate; don’t withdraw from life to protect your goal, but remain intentional about your behavior. The choice is yours. As you see blossoms again recoloring all the tree branches, consider Isaiah 43:18-19:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! (NIV). S BY DEB DeARMOND @AUTHORDEBDEARMOND


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MEET TOSCA LEE WHEN NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER TOSCA LEE WAS A CHILD, SHE DREAMED OF BEING A DANCER, USING DANCE AS A WAY TO ENTERTAIN AND TRANSPORT AUDIENCES TO A DIFFERENT PLACE AND TIME. Her little girl self would practice and prance across the dance floor as she dreamed of audiences and applause. It wasn’t until a series of injuries followed by a growth spurt that she had to consider a new dream. “I really think now that I was made to tell stories. Whether through dance or writing or music,” said Lee. “I think that’s such an empowering thing, to be given gifts and told to run with them. It’s one of the most powerful things we, as humans, can do.”


Fans of Lee will recognize her as the author of books like Demon, Iscariot and Havah. While some were ideas that others suggested, Lee says that some like Demon and Havah were dreamed of “on a whim.”

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-continued from p. 17Others, like the much-acclaimed series Books of Mortals, were, as Lee shared, “a joint brainstorming effort” with mainstream author Ted Dekker. Wherever the creative idea begins, it is always followed by research. It is in the creating and researching that Lee said she gets lost. “Gosh, every time I sit down and think I’m writing someone else’s story, I find out I’m really writing my own. I was Clay grappling with the concept of grace in Demon. I was Eve wondering where God was in Havah. I was Judas with my own agenda for God in Iscariot. I was the young queen grappling with where my identity lies in The Legend of Sheba. And for me that kind of makes sense. “As readers,” she added “we read to know we’re not alone. And as writers, I believe we write for the same reason—as well as to sort out who we are and make sense of our experiences.” Lee is excited that her readers seem to get caught up in that journey as well. As she puts it, “getting into the nooks and crannies … going deep, not shying away from the gritty and ugly elements that come with it.” Lee’s dream of writing really took hold as a college freshman. Searching for her future, she considered a degree in business or advertising. It wasn’t until in a talk with her dad one day toward the end of the semester that she said out loud that she wanted to write a novel. To her

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surprise, he took her idea seriously and offered her a deal she remains grateful for to this day. She said her dad told her that he’d “pay me what I would make as a bank teller for the summer if I devoted myself to writing a novel.” It’s still in her basement, but the experience of writing it was a valuable lesson. It hasn’t been a fairy-tale ascent for Lee. Perhaps it is more like a journey in the historical fiction she writes—sometimes nervous, sometimes overwhelmed. Looking back on it, Lee said, “As someone who grew up in the church receiving all the right answers, I was really rocked when I came to a point in my life where the answers didn’t seem to add up. “Where everything I had done ‘right’ didn’t produce the kind of outcomes they were ‘supposed’ to. In short, God wasn’t functioning the way I thought God should because I had turned this faith thing into a neat equation.” Even with years of experience in writing and research, Lee was quick to reveal, “a lot of the time I don’t really see what was going on until much later. I think that’s probably true for most of us—that hindsight reveals much more than being in the thick of what’s happening. I can say that now about the tumultuous time of my divorce, when my life was really in shambles, and also my publishing journey, which never really took off until my divorce—a strange thing to me then that makes perfect sense to me now. Everything hard in my life or that required more

patience, faith, or endurance than I thought I had was a great lesson about grace and greater things to come. Greater things have come. After a time of divorce, healing, and singleness, Tosca Lee recently (last year) met and married a farmer not far from her midwestern Nebraska home. This part of her journey has allowed her to become an “insta-mom” to four children ranging in age from the oldest at 22 down to the twins who are 12. “Kids have brought me such better perspective on not just life but writing—at a time when I needed that kind of grounding just to stay sane. I love the way they look at life and having fun. (When did we start to take ourselves so seriously?). They’re very clever, funny kids, and I am learning so much from them. And from my husband, too, who is an old, wise soul. Gosh, I’ve learned a lot about love lately.” She adds, “I’ve recently come to a place of peace around the idea of accepting more mystery in my life without a need to know all the answers. But it took a lot of struggle to get here.” Tosca Lee’s next novel, Firstborn, sequel to The Progeny, is scheduled for release May 2. You can find more about Tosca, including information about her book The Progeny, and its sequel Firstborn releasing on May 2 at There, you’ll also find out about her upcoming keynotes and writing workshops. S

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to Leading Hearts mag Look for Chonda’s interview in the May issue.

April 25, 2017 IN THEATERS





d e h c t ts re

WHEN I LEFT TEACHING WITH BIBLE STUDY FELLOWSHIP, I DID SOMETHING I’D NEVER CONSIDERED BEFORE. Even though I had no personal exposure to domestic violence, as soon as I saw an appeal for volunteers to help in a women’s shelter, I knew it was something I wanted to do. At first, my weekly tasks included checking on the number of beds available in the city where I live. Most days all the shelters were full. Women were desperate to find a safe place for themselves and their children, and it broke my heart to tell them nothing was available. During my shifts, I answered the phone, helped with the clothes closet, and played with the children—some of whom were so traumatized they

screamed in fear when anyone came close. Later, I facilitated a support group for women ordered by the court to get help. Hearing their raw stories of longing for love and instead receiving verbal abuse, threats, and beatings left me shaken. From knowing nothing about this very real issue in our culture (and in most cultures), I gained an education that has proven invaluable. Whether I’m talking privately to a woman about her abusive marriage or teaching on this topic from a biblical perspective, I’m thankful God nudged me to get involved.

What has been the outcome since I stepped into such an unfamiliar world? 1. I’ve been privileged to listen to many women’s stories and give them comfort and counsel. 2. I grew in my awareness of how widespread this problem is. 3. I studied Scripture, and I’m eager to teach of God’s love for women and His hatred of abuse. 4. I learned how to advise women if they need to leave for their own safety.

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5. I count it a God-given honor to speak to both singles and marrieds about “red flags” to watch for in their relationships—and what to do about them. As you seek wisdom about where to serve God and others, ask yourself: • What inspires me? stirs my heart? moves me to want to do something for the Lord? • Will this new step use my talents, expand my horizons, and cause me to grow? • Am I willing to risk and break through fears and stereotypes that hold me back?

Explore and discover God’s leading: After the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight, which went missing on its way to Beijing, my thoughts went back to a group of widows I had spoken to recently in Singapore. I had expected the group to be mainly older ladies who had lost their husbands after many years together. But that wasn’t the case. These precious widows spanned every age. They had lost their spouses through different illnesses and various kinds of accidents—including a plane crash. The founder of the group shared her story with me. This caring ministry began after the unexpected death of her husband. A friend invited her to church and following some special experiences with the Lord, she became a Christian. God then gave her a desire to help other women dealing with the shock, loss, and adjustment of widowhood. Her organization now reaches out to Singaporean widows of all ages and beliefs. As you consider how God might use your life experiences to help others, let me give you a brief list of possibilities. You can add your own.

Have you: • Lost a family member or close friend to death?

• Lost a child to drugs, alcohol, or other addictions? • A child with special needs? • Lost a child in a child custody suit? • Experienced an abortion? • Experienced domestic violence or abuse as a child? • Experienced divorce or abandonment? • Been financially devastated? • Been a single parent? • Been unemployed? • Felt friendless and unwanted? • Other difficult life experiences?

Ask Yourself: • How did (does) God help me? • How did (does) He give me courage, comfort, help, and healing? • What practical ways to cope has He shown me? Apply What You’ve Learned. Ask yourself: • How can I reach out to other women experiencing what I have? Could I send a note or e-mail? Give a hug? Stop to give time and a listening ear? Take her out for coffee or a meal? Invite her to a supportive group? • Am I using what I’ve learned through my life to help others, or am I letting it go to waste? Two women, one a widow in her early forties and the other a divorcee, started a group in their church for single women. Their combined life experiences of loss, change, and the challenges of a new path prompted them to reach out. God gave them the desire, whispered, “go for it,” and is now making them a blessing. What needs and opportunities do you see around you? Where might God want you to step in? Choose to say YES, be a blessing, and grow! S


Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.� (Proverbs 12:11, niv)



I GREW UP ON THE FARM, A DAIRY FARM TO BE EXACT. MY GRANDPARENTS WERE MARRIED FOR OVER 60 YEARS, AND FOR THE MOST PART, THEY WERE VERY HAPPY. Their home was the shelter I ran to when my own alcoholic father became brutal or out of control. I learned common sense from Grandma and Grandpa. If Grandpa was frustrated with Grandma, he’d just go to his shop and work. If my grandmother was irritated with my grandfather, she’d bake, clean, or cook. They didn’t waste their anger. One counselor, over dinner, once commented to us: “There are two ways to handle anger—depression and dysfunction: underachieve or overachieve. “The upside of overachievement is that you turn the dysfunction into energy and you work hard so at least you can afford to pay for counseling!” Bill and I have discovered that uncontrolled anger can lead to lashing out verbally. Then you have a big emotional mess to clean up: arguments, apologies, and meetings that can become very time-consuming. But if we will each do a couple of things when angry or irritated, our life goes more smoothly and we have fewer time-consuming arguments: Pray—We each ask for God’s view of the conflict. We might journal, research the Bible, or simply go for a walk or run and talk to God before we talk more to each other. Produce—We just keep working on the next

healthy thing: our writing, speaking, planning, meetings, etc. By moving our life together forward we are silently saying, “We are in this for the long haul. We are confident God will show us the solution in His time.” Plan to bless—We will begin to do kind things for each other. Bill might take out the trash without a reminder, or I might bring him a cup of coffee without him requesting it. Doing kind things softens our hearts so that when we are ready to dialogue, we like each other better. Prepare the timing—We plan the best time to pick up the discussion. We try to avoid important topics late at night, first thing in the morning, or when the other is preparing for an important speaking engagement, media interview, meeting, or under a vital pressing deadline. This is an imperfect goal. Sometimes we have to deal with an issue under less than perfect conditions, but if we can, we try to bring our best selves to the table. Pray Together—Before we begin the dialogue and discussion again, we pray and ask God to be in the middle of the conversation. People ask us how we have written 45 books in our 37 years of marriage while we were also serving in church ministry, raising our children and serving our communities. We don’t waste a lot of time or energy arguing inefficiently. Try it! The next time you are upset, push pause and walk through this simple process and see if it works for you two as well. The worst outcome will be that you two are productive and you have the funds to pay for your own counselor and the three of you can work with God toward a win-win outcome. Civility saves time and increases the chances of success in your marriage.

Lord, help us work through our issues rather than work up more drama. Calm our hearts, and focus them on You and the solutions You will bring. Amen. S

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“IN MY SPIRIT I JUST SENSE THAT IF YOU ARE SUFFERING CANCER, IF YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN A DEATH SENTENCE BY THE DOCTOR, WHATEVER IT IS, WE’RE GOING TO SING THIS THING OVER YOU: GOD IS FIGHTING FOR US. I hate cancer! I hate cancer, in Jesus’ name. And so we stand up, not in our own strength, but in the name of Jesus. We declare that there is healing in the name of Jesus!” Worship Leader, Author, and Pastor Darlene Zschech spoke these words at the end of her song “In Jesus’ Name” on her first live solo album, Revealing Jesus, released in 2013. Little did Darlene know that just nine months later, she would be diagnosed with breast cancer and face the battle of her life. “I had a kind of a fire in my belly to give people an anthem to sing when they are walking through trials, especially cancer,” Darlene said. “That song says, ‘I will live and I will not die to declare the goodness of the Lord.’” When she had no strength, she found her strength in worship and the Word of God. One of her best friends, fellow worship leader Miriam Webster, also became a great encourager. “Every day for seven months she would come in and lay hands on me and didn’t miss a day,” Darlene said. They listened to songs, wept, and prayed together with the Zschech family. Darlene still has the normal effects of chemo on her body, but she is praising God for His grace and blessing. She is now cancer free in Jesus’ name.

clares the greatness of God. Literally, that’s where this project has come from. The songs are very intentional in their messages and in their placement.” Here I Am Send Me is Darlene’s latest project that released on March 3 and features songs written with artists Martin Smith, Paul Baloche, and Jenn Johnson. The first song, “You are Great,” was the first song she wrote when she was sick. Co-writer Martin Smith, a worship leader in England, traveled to be with Darlene and the family during her dark days. “He is a great friend of our family. He got on a plane and flew out to see us. He walked with my husband, sat with us as a family, and sang songs of life over our church. He said to me one day, ‘What do you want to say, Darls? I want to write it.’ At that time, I was really sick, and I just said, I just want to say that He is great. That God is great. I keep lifting my circumstance to what the Word of God says, not bringing my theology down to my experience,” she said. Here I Am Send Me releases in perfect timing to celebrate the Easter season. It’s a celebration of new life and worshiping God regardless of circumstance. For the six weeks leading up to Easter, Darlene said Hope Unlimited Church will focus on prayer. “Worship is so powerful because it is our prayers. We help craft prayers for people to pray when they can’t wrap words around their own prayers,” she said. “We will be looking at unanswered prayers and is God listening to every prayer? How do we pray in faith? What do we do when we don’t understand? All of those questions.” She said the church will finish “Reboot” with a big Easter celebration with Martin Smith leading worship. “He’s coming out and for us it’s like the ultimate celebration. It’s like the most holy end to a very long, hard, and yet beautiful season,” she said as tears ran down her face. “[These are] amazingly grateful tears, I will tell you that.”

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Find out more about Darlene’s album, news and tour dates at

-continued from p. 27As the songwriter and worship leader who inspired generations with hits including “Shout to the Lord” and “The Victor’s Crown,” Darlene said that one of the most exciting things about this project is all musicians and worship leaders are from her local church on the Central Coast. “For most of them, it was their very first album. Some of them hadn’t been in a studio before. It’s so exciting to see what God is doing.” Among the young musicians featured on the album is her youngest daughter, Zoe. She noted all her daughters are worshipers with very different personalities. However, Darlene remembers the day she first heard Zoe and Bonnie Gray playing the song in their home. “Zoe actually texted it to me on a little voice memo saying, ‘What do you think of this, Mom?’ It just blessed me,” she said. “I think what blessed me most is when you’re walking through the fire, as a mom, you’re not really thinking about yourself; you are thinking about your kids and your husband. My kids have gone through very difficult times. So to see them emerge in worship, just loving Jesus, to be honest, in my heart it doesn’t get much better than this.” She added that she can even see the love in her grandchildren. “My oldest grandchild is seven, and Jesus has just captivated her heart. It’s who they are and I’m like ‘Okay, everything is going to be okay,’” she said. “Once I knew they had their hearts and minds focused on Christ and the finished work of Christ, then I knew that it was going to be okay no matter what happened to me.” Her journey to present day has changed her

life and those who surround and follow the Zschech family. She doesn’t want to glorify nor dumb down the cancer journey because she knows their lives will never be the same. “I live with that sense of urgency, intentionality, and a lot of grace for myself. I used to be so much harder on myself. But I am definitely living with that sense of ‘Here I am, Send me,’” she said. “I don’t want to live it caught on do I look okay? Are my clothes alright? Is my family perfect? In all of that stuff we get stalled. “Even in church, people put on masks like I have to be all good to get to church. It’s like where did all of this come from? What a lot of nonsense. Jesus says, ‘Come as you are.’ There’s a seat for everyone at the table. That’s why we need Him. I just feel so blessed to have been given part two of life.” The journey has taught Darlene to be interruptible. “I am learning to live with margin in my day to be interrupted for the miracles in my every day,” she said. “He wants to use anybody who is willing to say yes.” Darlene’s passion is that people don’t settle for a musical experience. “There is a depth in God it will take all of eternity for us to wade into, but He does allow us to experience it here on earth,” she said. “Worship sits outside what the kingdoms of this world present to us as musical success. In worship, the success is Jesus. He is the goal. He is perfect theology. That is the goal. The other stuff has to bow.” S BY JENN TAYLOR @JENNTAYLOR417 PROFILE CONTRIBUTOR --------

Marshal Younger and Torry Martin have been writing partners for 13 years. Their current film, “Heaven Bound” is a faithbased comedy that came out on DVD last month.


Q: The two of you are prolific in your screenplay partnership. How many comedy features have you written together? Marshal: 11. Torry: 12. Marshal: We don’t count the one. Torry: Why not? Marshal: It’s not really a screenplay, it’s more of a... Torry: Ten-car pile-up, with injuries?

Q: Are they all faith-based? Torry: Only a few are. We like writing main-

stream comedies as well as faith-based ones.

Q: How is your approach different when you write for a faith-based audience? Torry: We take out all the grape juice and replace it with real wine. Marshal: He’s joking. The process of storytelling is the same, but everything else is very different. The theme, the characters, even the comedy comes from a different place. Torry: And I think you have to make up your mind who the audience is. You can’t split the difference, hoping to appeal to both audiences. Decide who your audience is and stick to it. Marshal: Yeah, the problem I see with a lot of faith-based movies is… Torry: The way the characters talk like the responsive readings in church? Marshal: Praise to the Lord. Torry: And also with you. Marshal: It’s the idea that faith-based movies have to justify the half a million dollars they spent making it by having a salvation scene, so that unsaved people will come to Jesus at the

end. But the lost in our world come from a completely different place than the saved, so they checked out of the story forty minutes ago when the bad actor playing the drunk atheist threw his 8-year-old son out of the house with a ridiculous “You’re not my son!” Torry: Is that a real movie? Marshal: I don’t think so. Torry: Let’s make it. I’ll be the 8-year-old son. Marshal: I read an article by a guy named Andrew Barber that said, and I’m paraphrasing, “The reason Christian films aren’t as artistic as secular films is because Christian films aren’t as honest.” And I believe that 100 percent. Torry: Which is one of the reasons we like faithbased comedy, because one way to be honest is to make fun of ourselves.

from the movie? Marshal: I love the scene where Ted is taking care of the dog and almost gets him dismembered five times in a row. Torry: We lost a star on the “Dove Review” because of that scene. Marshal: Yes. Because of our treatment of dogs. Torry: I told you we should’ve used cats.

Q: What do you hope people take away from this movie? Torry: A copy of the DVD. Because there are bloopers and behind the scenes material. Marshal: And we make more money if they buy one.

Q: Is that the goal of “Heaven Bound”?

Torry: Seriously, it’s to remind people that it’s the eternal things in life that have value.

Torry: It’s part of the goal. Mostly, we just wanted to make a funny movie.

That...and don’t hold people hostage.

Q: With a message. Torry: Sure, but the message is secondary. Story has to come first, then the message. If the story isn’t good, no one will care about the message. It’s a hard thing for Christian artists to hear, but your main goal has to be to entertain. The message needs to be organic to the story, not the other way around.

Watch the Heaven Bound trailer here and find out more about the movie at

Q: So what is “Heaven Bound” about? Torry: A dying man traps three people in his house and won’t let them leave until they make a decision for Christ.

Q: Funny premise. Marshal: It was Torry’s original idea. Torry: You helped. Marshal: That’s true. I added the drunk atheist who yells at his 8-year-old. Torry: Can I at least get an audition? Marshal: The kid from “Stranger Things” is coming in. You have no chance against him. Q: Do you have any favorite scenes or lines - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -{31.} ------ ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

— t h g u o h t r o f food LIFE BYTES





In fact, April is officially Titanic Month. As a historian of that era, I wanted to know more about those passengers and felt a push to write a book when I read these words:

“The best way to respect and honor those who gave their lives is to simply tell their stories.” It’s been an honor to learn about the hopes and dreams, the legacy left and the impact made, by those who perished and those who survived that fateful voyage. As a writer, I began thinking about my legacy. What do I have that is important to pass on to future generations?

A legacy is something of value and importance that is passed down from one person to another. The dictionary defines legacy as “a gift by will especially of money or other personal property, something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” It is an important gift that can be tangible or intangible. My great-grandmother probably had no idea that the things she did on a daily basis would be gifts of great value her great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter would “run with.” The seeds of her legacy were planted over 100 years ago as she lived during the era of the Titanic! That was a vital connection for me and to the addition of my book, Tea on the Titanic! Her gift of hospitality was passed down to me and has been part of my life. I have been part of that gift-passing legacy from one generation to another. My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother blessed many generations with the gift of hospitality and love centered around the tea table. I am blessed every time I gather ladies around my tea table and use some of the tea items used by my great-grandmother. What blesses me even more is knowing my granddaugher also gathers ladies around her table for tea time. In the troubled times in which we live, we can plant seeds of faith, hope, and love. These gifts will grow beyond our time on earth and have eternal benefits. Something

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as simple as a smile, kindness, a meal, or tea party served around your dining room table are expressions of God’s love that will do more than we can think or imagine. As we plan our legacy, let’s make it our goal to “make heaven more crowded” by the simple acts of kindness and some time around the table with those God brings into our path.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

Preheat oven to 350º. Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time. Just before adding last egg, stir in ¼ cup flour, then continue to add rest of flour and spices. Stir in fruit and mix with spoon. Pour into parchment-lined spring-release pan. Bake at 350º for 2 hours. Cool on rack thoroughly. Store in airtight container. A wonderful cake to serve with afternoon tea. Goes well with Darjeeling and Earl Grey tea. S

I love spur-of-the-moment visits and find it a joy to be able to put on the kettle and serve this delightful cake. My English cousin, Angela, gave me this recipe. Everyone loves it! Angela’s Tea Cake (Angela Barnard, Bath, England) 2 cups butter, softened 1½ cups sugar 2 cups flour 4 eggs 1 lb. dried fruit (currants, raisins, sultanas, cherries, etc.) 2 tsp. cinnamon 1 tsp. nutmeg 1 tsp. cloves 1 cup chopped nuts (if desired)

Find great recipes like this in Penelope’s book: The Art of Afternoon Tea: From the Era of Downton Abbey and the Titanic. Available autographed from

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— e m i t t abou




TRANSPLANTING YOUR MINISTRY Step 2: Prepare the Soil — We need to have the soil of hearts prepared before we try to take root. Watch the news to be sure the area is free of conflicts. Pray that hearts are ready to receive your message. When I led a puppet ministry and wanted to expand to doing shows in hospitals I prayed and worked on plans of how to do it, explained it to the members, and then used video clips to share with hospitals.

I NEEDED TO TRANSPLANT MY MINISTRY SO IT COULD REMAIN IN BLOOM AS I MOVED TO ANOTHER STATE, SO I REALIZED THE NEED TO PUT A STRATEGY IN PLACE. Step 1: Gradual Change — Taking a new shoot from inside to outdoors can shock the plant or cause sunburn and wind damage. The tender shoot needs to be gradually introduced to outdoor elements. So, too, you need to expose yourself to new surroundings gradually. Get to know people, the area, and people’s needs. Connect with other Christians who speak, write, or book speakers to learn about the community. I attended my new church and joined writer’s groups without saying much about what I do. When the church secretary saw some of my books in a catalogue, she got excited and shared about me so I could minister to the church.

Step 3: TLC—You have to handle a plant carefully to avoid damaging the stem or leaves. I learned the need to handle the plant by the roots while planting it. I also discovered that drenching the surrounding soil with water eliminates air pockets and moves beneficial microorganisms toward the plant. As you start speaking and developing your ministry, use TLC. Work with leaders who inspire people. Build connections. Drench everything with prayer to remove any evil spirits and ask God to draw Christians toward you. I worked with my publicists and they set up book signings at national events in my area. I connected with a state leader to join a speaking team. Step 4: Covering—Once the plant is in the new ground it might need covering as it continues to acclimatize. So, too, as you start being planted and speak or minister in other ways, you may find periods of drought or weeds of gossip taking hold. Be prepared with a group of prayer warriors and ask them to step up prayers. Continued Care—Even when a plant starts to thrive it will need continued care of weeding out problems, fertilizing with the Word, and watering with prayer. Prepare to transplant and thrive! S

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C. S. Lewis pointed out that only Christians must deal with what he called “the problem of pain.” You stated the issue perfectly. We believe that the God of the Bible, a God with unlimited power and love for everyone, should end heartache. Period! Because God doesn’t do so, we assume He isn’t there or that He doesn’t love us. But despite our own pain, we need to reason through the question. First, let me assure you God cares. Think about the death of Lazarus. Before they rolled the stone away from the grave, Jesus stood before the tomb and wept. How odd! He’d already raised the dead on several occasions.

Second, (this may seem obvious) God gave man a choice to obey him or not. When God placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden, and Adam and Eve disobeyed Him by eating its fruit, He allowed them the consequence to experience spiritual and physical death. Through the ages, God has allowed terrible consequences when men like Hitler perpetrated evil. If He hadn’t done this, mankind would not have freedom to choose God over evil. God gives us this freedom because He values men and women who voluntarily follow Him. Third, If God hadn’t devised a remedy to our own sin, the world would have no hope. But praise God, God crafted a plan of redemption. Jesus, the Son of God, left all His glory to become a man. He suffered the punishment we deserved on a Roman cross.

Why didn’t He dance a jig and reassure everyone they would stop crying as soon as He made the necessary repairs? I believe His tears demonstrate a huge truth: God grieves. He hates death as much as we do. Death rips apart body and soul, and we weren’t designed to die.

The flogging and the crucifixion was one of the most painful and humiliating ways to die. His sacrifice reverses the effects of sin. I love the way C.S. Lewis describes resurrection. He called it ”death working backward.” God can restore “the years that the locusts have eaten.”

Remember the story in the Garden of Eden? He told Adam not to sin or else he would die. God told Adam not to sin because God didn’t want Adam to experience death because He knew the sorrow death would cause.

Finally, God thinks long term. It may seem to us God will never act, but His timing is not our time. He is weaving the tapestry of history. When He’s finished, wrongs will be righted and the picture will be beautiful. We can trust Him. S

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Daily giving of our best in our homes, careers, and ministries leaves us in a vulnerable state emotionally and physically. Over the years, I have noticed the profound effect worship has on my mind, body, and spirit. Many Sundays I would begin a time of worship out of obligation and leave mentally transformed, not even consciously aware of my specific need for healing until after the toxic emotions had been cleansed and flushed out through worship. In those moments, God uses worship as the healing elixir needed to bring wholeness and strength in my life. Through worship, God has supplied for our need to be strengthened when we have weathered life’s storms. He knew we would face difficulties, discouragements, and disappointments. He knew we would have times we would feel dry and in need of the watering of worship. Like sap flowing through a tree, worship draws from the deep places of God’s grace and circulates His spirit into every area of our life. Worship is not just for Sunday morning church gatherings. Its benefits are daily needed to undo the damage of living so we can grow deeper and stronger in God. In every season of life, whether weary or well, worship should be a part of your self-care program. Below are some specific times

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HEALTHTRACKS you will find worship beneficial in restoring your strength.

Worship When Worried–Light physical exercise can cause you to feel relaxed and relieve stress. The spiritual exercise of worship has similar results in your emotions. A cluttered mind can become bogged down in its own thoughts, judgments, and opinions. As these anxious thoughts build up, so will your tendency to worry. After a time of worship, the fallow ground of the heart is plowed up. The hardness is made soft so it can then receive the seed of God’s Word. This seed can then germinate into the good fruit of peace and joy.

Worship When Weary–Isaiah 61:3

proclaims that the Lord will give “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” so that we may be called “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord.” I can feel God’s presence and love most during worship. During these moments, it’s as if the arms of the Father encompass me and pull me into a divine embrace. He lifts off the weariness and adorns me with the garment of praise. I’m grounded by the weightiness of His love and can more clearly see myself as the righteousness of Christ. Take a moment now to listen to a worship song and experience this promise from Jesus for yourself.

Worship When You Feel Worn-Out–Worship may seem like anoth-

er demand on your busy life. Unlike most things we do in our day, worship returns more than we deposit. We give from our strength as we worship God, and He gives us His strength in return. If you feel like you are too worn-out to spend 5 minutes in worship, then you are too worn-out to miss this opportunity to be strengthened. Worship, even from a weakened state, is a weapon against restlessness, fatigue, and stress.

Worship When You Feel Worthless–In the Old Testament, God

placed such importance on worship that He sent Moses to free His people so they could freely worship Him. Worship symbolizes freedom and in the process sets you free you from wrong mindsets and attitudes that are a result of those things others have done or said to you. Worship

affirms our worthiness to be loved. God draws near, and through His presence, we can receive inner healing of our insecurities. In the process of glorifying and worshiping, we submit our deeply rooted fears of unworthiness and can be replanted in the fertile ground of His loving acceptance.

Worship When Wanting–Some-

times as we stand with hands raised high, we come wanting and needy. We bring our agenda and desires before God. We are hungry to be filled, not with more of His presence but rather with His provisions. During these times of misplaced desires, worship can help us evaluate what or whom we are worshiping. Every motive is brought out into the light, and we can quickly repent of craving the gifts more than the Giver.

Worship When Wounded–When we

worship in spirit and in truth, we authentically and transparently worship from our current position. During these times of worship, one may laugh out with pure joy while another may weep from their place of sorrow—both worshiping in spirit and in truth, freely giving from where they stand and open to receiving a divine exchange. As they pour out in worship, God pours in whatever is missing or broken. The empty places are filled with His love, and wounded places are made whole.

Worship When Well–Worship isn’t

just about singing a song so you feel better. It is about connecting with God. It is acknowledging God’s power, greatness, holiness, sovereignty, love, grace, compassion, and mercy. It is you seeing God high and lifted up and responding with the praise He so rightly deserves. It is an offering of the best of your time, gifts, talents, creativity, and good deeds not because you have to, but because you want to. It’s the outflow from the well of Living Water in your life back into the lives of others. S BY SAUNDRA DALTON SMITH @DRDALTONSMITH






seeds of FAITH

Now that my sons are grown and I have the beauty of hindsight, I’ve realized something: All those seemingly-wasted seeds we planted in them grew into something amazing. It’s easy to get discouraged in the midst of the parenting journey, but I want to encourage you today to keep being faithful. Those manners I thought my guys would never learn are now ingrained in them. That respect for authority that we instilled in them as little boys enabled us to enjoy them as teenagers. And miracle of miracles, those life lessons that we taught them as little boys have been invaluable to them in their adult lives. Besides doing the yard work and home maintenance, my sons cook dinner for their families. They clean. They even do the ironing. All seeds that were planted many years before. I’m thankful those things took root, but there’s one thing I’m most grateful for: I’m glad those seeds of faith that we planted in our sons have turned into a thriving garden—that’s now feeding another generation.

You see, two of those little boys are now in ministry, preaching the gospel and working with children and teens. Our third son is active in- - - - - - {38.} - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -music - - - - ministry, - - - - - - -helping - - - - - -to- -set - - the - - -stage - - - - -for - -wor------ship in their church services. And we had no idea any of that would occur. Moms, keep planting those seeds—especially the seeds of faith. You might think nothing is happening—but someday God will allow you to watch your children grow and flourish for Him. S

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Here are a few tips:

The answer is yes, and I have some ideas to help you apply a little Miracle Grow to your spiritual ears.

2. Give God your day’s priorities,

My first question is, What is your prayer life like? Do you just read off your “God please” list? You know what I mean: God please do this and God please do that. Or is your prayer life a little shy? You want to talk to God, but you’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing. So, you don’t say much to Him at all. If either of these scenarios describes you, please know that you are not alone. A lot of people have trouble breaking through these barriers to a better prayer life. But what if an incredible loving and understanding God wanted you to talk to Him, but you neglected Him by rushing through your day without giving Him a thought or even a friendly wave? Trust me, God wants your attention. God wants you to acknowledge Him, to tell Him how you’re feeling, and to be your provider. He wants to speak to your heart so that you’ll begin to recognize His voice. In order for this to happen, you must give God your attention. So, if you want to grow your spiritual ears, you have to practice the art of hearing God’s voice.

1. Set aside daily time to talk to God. I like to start when I first wake up. I love

to acknowledge God and invite Him into my day. worries, and concerns. For example, you could tell God, “I have that meeting a work today that I’m really worried about. Could You go into that meeting with me, and grant me favor?”

3. Open your Bible. Spend some time

reading a passage. If it tugs at your heart, pray it back to God. Let’s say you were reading Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV). You could turn this Scripture into a prayer. “God, please help me to get through my to-do list in your strength.”

4. Ask God a question, and listen. God loves to answer. Maybe something

in the Word will zing an answer to your heart. Or maybe you’ll hear His still small voice because you’ve waited, listening for Him. You may find that His voice is not a loud one, but soft and wrapped in love. If you’re not sure if you’re really hearing Him, ask, “Is that you, Lord? Are you the one Whose Son, Jesus, died on the cross for my sins?” Wait for his smile in your heart. If you get confusion, or silence, I’d advise caution. But the best safety net in hearing his voice is knowing that God will never tell you anything that goes against his Word.—LINDA EVANS SHEPHERD S

Linda is publisher of Leading Hearts magazine. Her latest book is Winning Your Daily Spiritual Battles from Revel of Baker Publishing Group.

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WITH AUTHORS RHONDA & KALEY RHEA Leading Hearts recently caught up with Rhonda and Kaley to find out how their journey as writers, their journey as a writing team, and their journey as believers all intersect…and what’s next for them. Q: How do you two write as a duo? What does your co-authorship look like, practically speaking? Rhonda: We’re actually asked this question

often. I usually answer, “I type a word, Kaley types a word, I type a word, Kaley types a word.” Then Kaley will say how preposterous that is because, as it happens, Kaley is a lefty and I’m a righty. So she’ll point out how it makes much more sense for us each to have a dominant hand on the keyboard. In truth, we have more fun working together than any two people should. There’s some shared “crazy” in these genes so we get

each other. Kicking off a project, we hammer out a story line together and brainstorm scenes.

While I research a few details, Kaley starts the first draft, creates some of the character sketches and descriptions of locations and such. She also usually creates a rough timeline.

Kaley: Of course, just when we think we have

everything planned and plotted, some rogue character takes off on his or her own and does something neither of us saw coming. And yet? We totally dig it when they go off-script. I get the entire story on paper, then it’s volleyed back and forth for tweaks and additional thoughts/ideas. One of our favorite parts of the process is the last read-through— which we do together out loud. The reason it’s one of our favorite parts is that we laugh and laugh and tell each other repeatedly how brilliantly hilarious we are. And then we laugh some more.

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Q: That brings up that “Hilarity and Hope in Christ” tag we see in a lot of your material, Rhonda. Care to elaborate on that? Rhonda: The hilarity is a direct result of the

aforementioned “crazy,” but humor is a great tool for bringing down barriers and helping us get to a heart message—that heart message being the genuine hope found only in Christ. Hope in Christ makes all the difference in life. It’s the difference between living in joy or defeat, bearing fruit in life or never accomplishing anything of eternal value, understanding what life is about or missing it altogether. Jesus IS that heart message.

Q: Ten nonfiction inspiration humor books later, with another nonfiction around the bend, plus this new co-authored humorous fiction, ever think about a genre outside humor? Why did you chose to be a humor writer? Rhonda: I’m not sure I actually chose the hu-

mor life. It’s quite possible the humor life chose me. I do sometimes wonder if it’s more of a “condition” than a choice. The good news is I enjoy the crazy. Whether it’s nonfiction, fiction, Bible studies—weaving in a few chuckles is great for creating a bond with readers so we can connect in a real way around a biblical truth or principle. Of course, mostly I’m just in this for the money (heh heh, now THAT’S a joke).

Q: Kaley, on top of co-authoring this book with your mom, you also work with her and with your sister on a TV show. Tell us about the collaborative TV work. You make working together look cinchy, but can that kind of family collaboration really be easy? Kaley: The show, called “That’s My Mom,”

currently airs on Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. While the past episodes are still running, we’ve taken a break from creating a new season. But we hope to add new episodes in the coming months, including a new player—my sister Allie’s baby girl, Emerson. (She’s the reason for our little hiatus.) Prepare for copious amounts of adorable.

We make it look easy, huh? Nice. It’s probably because the three of us are all consummate professionals.… OK, so we’re rarely professional, but that’s probably a pretty huge part of why we work well together. We’ve had a couple decades to get to know one another—our strengths and weaknesses—so I think that kind of frees us up creatively. We’ve grown individually and we’ve grown as a crew. It’s great because, for the most part, each of us gets to work on the portions of the current project for which we are best suited. Also, I think that the TV opportunity was one we couldn’t have orchestrated if we’d tried. So, its totally a God thing. It makes it a little harder to have a bad attitude or an ego trip when the very thing you’re working on is a glaring reminder itself that, Hey! It’s not about you. Silly goose. It also helps that we like each other, and if we weren’t doing this, we’d still be hanging out. Probably God realized He’d better give us something productive to do because we clearly should not be left to our own devices.

Q: You mentioned how you’ve all grown. Tell us a little about the growth story in your romantic comedy, Turtles in the Road. Kaley: Turtles in the Road is about a girl who

was sure she knew exactly what God was calling her to. But when her fiancé breaks up with her, and a turtle in the road causes her to run her car off the road, she finds herself stuck in a little Nowheresville town, wondering how she could’ve gotten her God-signals so crossed. There are insane-hilarious happenings all along her way to figuring out that sometimes a detour takes us exactly where we need to be. We have fallen ridiculously in love with the characters in the book. I’m not sure how it’s happened, but they all seem a bit funnier and wiser than we are.

-continued to p. 43-

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-continued from p. 41Still, it’s a story we can get behind in every way and we’re thrilled to get to do this book with Bold Vision Books. The characters’ struggle to know the will of God is a key growth factor in our walk with Christ—one that we all wrestle with at some time or another. It’s funny that in the process of writing about the growth in the spiritual lives of these madeup characters, we’ve grown, too. We’ve grown individually as writers and as followers of Christ, and we’ve grown as a writing team. I think we’ve grown in the area of staying more mindful of how we can cooperate with the new ways God wants to use us individually and together. And this co-authoring gig? We totally have to do this again.

Q: Rhonda, any other upcoming projects to watch for? Rhonda: Kaley and I have two more books in

Rhonda & Kaley

the works with tons more outrageous ideas. Oh, how we love embracing the outrageous. Fun’s a-comin’! Beth Duewel and I also have a co-authored nonfiction project with Bold Vision Books releasing this spring. The title is Fix-Her-Upper— Hope and Laughter through a GodRenovated Life, and, oh boy, it’s a fun one. S

Look for your chance to win a free copy of Turtles in the Road and more by signing up for the Leading Hearts newsletter at

BOOKS TO READ FULL CIRCLE by Athena Dean Holtz Brave, honest, raw. Full of wisdom forged in the fires of experience. Every reader will be enriched by Athena’s open and revealing account of her journey into wholeness.—Jennifer Kennedy Dean, executive director of The Praying Life Foundation, author of numerous books In Full Circle, you’ll read a story of a heroine who encounters many trials, hardships, broken hearts and moments of joy that take her on a journey she never could have imagined. And it’s all true! Loving pursuit, redemption, forever after . . . ah, the stuff that princess tales are made of. Enjoy!—Kim Bangs, senior acquisitions editor, Bethany House / Chosen Books Full Circle is a candid and inspirational story of Athena’s shattered life restored by the faithfulness of God. Deceived by Scientology, forays into mysticism, and twelve years in a restrictive, legalistic cult, she lost everything—her marriage, relationships, home, business, money, and reputation—before God brought her full circle.

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TURTLES IN THE ROAD by Rhonda and Kaley Rhea Sometimes a detour takes you exactly where you need to be. In Rhonda and Kaley Rhea’s latest mother/daughter duo fiction project, Turtles in the Road, you’ll meet Piper Cope. Piper was so sure the Lord called her to be a pastor’s wife. So when her pastor/fiancé breaks it off, she’s every kind of puzzled. Does God even have a purpose for her anymore? On the road halfway between the bridges she’s burned and some kind of new start, she encounters the most unexpected detour. She swerves on a rainy road to miss a turtle and ends up in a ditch with an airbag to the face. Now stuck in this little town, she wonders how in the world she could’ve gotten her God-signals so very crossed. Applause, applause for Rhonda Rhea and her daughter, Kaley Rhea! Turtles in the Road is heart-warming, inspirational and entertaining.— Babbie Mason, award-winning singer, songwriter and author

MENTAL HEALTH MOMENTS by Danni Andrews Mental Health Moments the coloring book started as an exercise for author Danni Andrews to relieve writers block. It began as a blog in 2011 after the passing of her mother. Danni explains: “Her death nearly brought me to my knees and I was not capable of writing long periods of time. This book is an applause for those moments when I could barely breathe. You’re encouraged to take a few minutes to read the blog (meditation), color the picture, and write in the journal. These moments are designed to still your soul and calm your mind.

“I love how Danni combined coloring, a journal spot, and her journey. What a positive reminder to keep moving forward. I am recommending this book to several people I know. Looking forward to buying her next book soon.”—G Wright - -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------{45.} - -- --


MUSIC REVIEWS KARI JOBE The Garden Kari Jobe’s new album, The Garden (released February 3) is in a word—healing. It’s a 14-track time of renewal for the soul while in God’s presence. Kari is not just singing on this album; she’s raising her voice in worship, calling on God for His peace and strength. “This album was written out of experiencing God’s closeness, goodness and mercy even through a season of great loss for my family,” Kari said. “I was reminded of His desire for intimate, real relationship with us like He had originally designed back in Garden of Eden. . . . The Garden is all about seeing the beauty and kindness of God in the midst of the difficulties. He’s not distant or disconnected from our pain; in fact, He’s been right here the whole time, turning ashes into beauty.” All of the tracks have a restoring quality, but the deeply cathartic, hauntingly beautiful prayer “Speak to Me,” with the soft and sweet refrain, “speak to me / I’m listening,” may stop you in your tracks as you find yourself craving quite time with Jesus. Spend some time in The Garden with the music of Kari Jobe.

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OUT OF THE DUST Self-Titled Husband-wife duo Out of the Dust—Chris and Stephanie Teague—have released, on March 7, their 11-track self-titled debut album, created from a season of pain, followed by restoration, in their marriage. Out of the Dust’s sound is just a notch quirky, giving it a fresh uniqueness. The radio popularity of the first track, “All That I’m Made For,” may create a sudden artist-name to song-title connection for listeners who may not have realized their familiarity with this vocal duo, as Stephanie’s sweet and edgy voice leads with: “Life is more than simply chasing after things I think I need; it’s not about me….” She and Chris blend with tones that are gentle and reassuring. Chris and Stephanie want to encourage hearts with their real-life Out of the Dust story. “Our desire is to be faithful stewards of our story and let the music we create move people toward love, life, and hope no matter where it meets them in the journey,” Chris said.

BROOKS AND BOGGS Wildfire Wildfire, a six-track EP releasing March 31, is the debut recording by worship duo Brooke & Boggs. The pair came together when Michael Boggs, formerly of FFH, shifting his career and ministry focus and taking a new step toward worship music, found the right worship leader to team up with in Brooke Voland. Beginning by leading worship together at their own local churches, the pair noticed powerful responses to their original songs. “As we saw the response, we thought maybe these songs are something God has given us to help congregations all over the world be able to express their hearts to the Lord,” Boggs says. The idea to create Wildfire came as they saw the potential for expanding their music ministry influence to churches beyond their own. Led by a track entitled “Grace Upon Grace,” the EP is full of encouraging and healing truths to open and connect hearts to our loving God.

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IF YOUR MINISTRY IS HAVING A HARD TIME FLOURISHING, THE PROBLEM MAY LIE IN ITS SOIL. You can’t force your own ministry to grow and thrive, but it’s important to prepare the soil for God’s good uses. That involves purifying your motives. And God knows how to do that, sometimes through the fertilizer of adversity. Fertilizer may smell horrible, but it enriches the soil. So do obstacles and problems. James 1:2-4 assures us trials are good for us—for our character and our heart’s motives. When we experience blocks to our ministry, it’s an opportunity to see how God wants to purify us and make our soil nourishing for the fruit of the Spirit.

Here are some questions to examine your heart’s soil: 1. Do I demand that doors open the way I want? I can become impatient

and think God isn’t fair when opportunity doesn’t knock. Enriching our soil means surrendering to His timing.

2. Am I jealous of the success of others? I may find myself thinking, “Why

did she get that opportunity? They should have asked me.” But then I’m basically saying God wasn’t very smart to give someone else the open door.

3. Do I become critical of others?

Close on the heels of jealousy comes a critical spirit. I can easily think my way of doing something is best. My amount of humor or my way of telling stories or my method of including practical ideas is perfect can become a block to appreciating the variety within the members of the body of Christ.

4. Do I feel responsible for results? When people don’t respond to my

marketing or an editor doesn’t want my project, I can blame them instead of trusting God is powerful enough to bring the results He wants. As you can tell, our heart’s soil for ministry may be filled not with fertilizer, but dry dust. Have no fear. The Master Gardener has His trowel and shovel ready to mix in purified soil. As a result, our fruit will be nourishing for others to the glory of God. S .


I HAVE TO ADMIT THE CLOSEST I GET TO CONTROLLING TIME IS WHEN MY WALL CLOCK NEEDS THE BATTERIES REPLACED. Time can’t be bribed, so I protect it as my most precious commodity in my business and with my family. Time is more precious than money. As an author, speaker, and CEO of a marketing and consulting company, it’s easy to get bogged down with deadlines, miss e-mails, forget to return phone calls, and all sorts of accidental mishaps. Having an assistant would be amazing—cloning would be even better— but when you’re running an entrepreneurial one-woman show, you go to the next best thing. Apps. There is a direct correlation in how productive I am and the amount of time I spend using the software tools at my disposal. I upgraded to paid plans for several of these systems, often because paying for a powerful app not only saves me time, but is less expensive than hiring an assistant. Here are my favorites:

To-Do List: Nozbe. Hands. Down. ▪ Intuitive and easy-to-use interface ▪ Mobile app, and Apple Watch notifications ▪ Personalized Nozbe e-mail address that lets me forward important emails straight to my Nozbe in-box ▪ Workflows, recurring reminders, and due dates ▪ Team member option Honorable Mentions: Asana, Wunderlist Scheduling: Acuity Scheduling is my favorite client scheduling app because: ▪ Intake forms ▪ Easy calendar integration ▪ Time blocking ▪ Multiple appointment types Honorable Mention: Calendly Social Media Scheduling: MeetEdgar is my go-to scheduler because they recycle your content and have an incredible customizable scheduling calendar. They’re a bit pricey, but my first week using them brought a Return on Investment (ROI) of over 70% increased traffic to my website. Honorable Mentions: Buffer, Hootsuite, Post Planner, CoSchedule (more than just social media) Check out the complete article and more useful tools on Bethany’s web site

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that’s My

D O G at

! k r o W

TRUTH ON ONE OF OUR VACATIONS, MY HUSBAND AND I DECIDED TO WING IT WITH ONLY A MAP AND A FULL TANK OF GAS. We were in the San Francisco area, and since I had never crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, we took off to make that happen. Traffic was horrendous, but we finally made it to the famous site. We drove across under a heavy fog that made it impossible to even see the tops of the bridge’s famous towers. With that mission accomplished and more than half a day of sunlight left, we decided to drive through Sausalito, another place I hadn’t seen. We did so and then saw a sign pointing us temptingly toward Stinson Beach. Why not? We reasoned. Well, that two-way road to Stinson Beach wound us around and through mountains and valleys; it was much more of a drive than we had bargained for. Two hours later, we finally zig-zagged our way back through San Rafael, got ourselves back onto Highway 101, and headed back across the Golden Gate Bridge ($6 toll and all). What a ride! Even though we had taken an unplanned turn,

that drive was devastatingly beautiful. Around every bend was yet another amazing vista visible only to eyes that took that out-of-theway road. I kept thinking, Wow, God did all this work for us to enjoy today. Psalm 92:4 perfectly sums up my feelings:

“For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands” (NKJV). At first read, I wondered how I could be the one triumphing in the works of God’s hands. Then I got it. In the same way I used to yell, “That’s my kid,” when Mark scored a basket on the basketball court, I can triumph in the works of my God’s hands when I see them. I guess I’m yelling, “That’s my God at work!” So the next time you see a gorgeous sunset, the waves rolling in, a mountain vista, or a starry night sky, be glad through God’s work, and triumph in the works of His hands. You may even want to shout out, “That’s my God at work!” S

For more devotionals from Sharon go to from


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DEB DEARMOND is an author, a speaker, and relationship coach—helping others improve their interactions at work and at home. Her first book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships was released in November 2013 by Kregel Publications.

LIZ CURTIS HIGGS has one goal: to help women embrace the grace of God with joy and abandon. She’s the author of 36 books with 4.6 million copies in print. Liz has also spoken with Women of Faith, Extraordinary Women, Women of Joy, and at 1,700 women’s conferences in all 50 states and 15 foreign countries.

meet linda

LINDA EVANS SHEPHERD @LINDASHEPHERD is publisher of Leading Hearts magazine. She is also a best-selling author, an in-demand speaker, and president of Right to the Heart ministries. She is founder of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). She lives in Colorado with husband, Paul, and son, Jimmy.

PAM FARREL and her husband, Bill, are speakers and authors of 40 books including their newest: 7 Simple Skills for Success for Men. For more information visit KAREN PORTER is an international speaker, the author of six books, and a successful business woman. She is president of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, serves on several boards, and coaches aspiring writers and speakers. She and her husband, George, own Bold Vision Books, a Christian publishing company. RHONDA RHEA is an author, humor columnist, and radio personality. She lives in the St. Louis area with her pastor-hubs and has five grown children. TERRI STAFFORD is a profile contributor for Leading Hearts magazine.

meet amber

AMBER WEIGAND-BUCKLEY @BAREFACEDGIRL is managing editor and art director for Leading Hearts magazine. She is a writer, speaker and multi-award winning editor, having spent 21 years in the magazine industry. When not working on Leading Hearts, she provides communications and social media support for non-profits and missionaries. She and her Brit-native husband Philip live in Missouri with their three daughters: Saffron, Imogen, and Penelope.

Text LEADING H E ART (no space) to 9 5 5 7 7 now free instant ac c e s s t o n e w resources, enc o u r a g e m en goodies deliver ed direct to your cell.


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PENELOPE CARLEVATO is an author of Afternoon Tea: From the Era of Downton Abbey and the Titanic as well as Tea on the Titanic and First Class Etiquette. She speaks on hospitality, historical entertaining, and etiquette and manners for all ages and all occasions. Penelope lives in the Denver area and is the grandmother of 11. MICHELLE S. COX is an author, speaker and the creator of the Just 18 Summers parenting resources and products. Visit her parenting blog and on Facebook SHARON NORRIS ELLIOTT’S engaging yet challenging messages touch hearts and tickle the funny bones of her audiences, making her a popular, sought-after speaker. She and husband, James, enjoy their empty nest in Southern California. KATHY COLLARD MILLER is an author and speaker whose newest book Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today, released in January. Find her at CYNTHIA L. SIMMONS is an author, speaker as well as radio host and producer of Heart of the Matter Radio. During each broadcast, Cynthia takes an in-depth look at issues women face in our complex culture. She and husband, Ray, have five grown children.

SAUNDRA DALTON SMITH is an internal medicine physician, author, and speaker. She shares with audiences nationwide on the topics of eliminating limiting emotions, breaking free from mental bondage, and helps others see God’s plan for them to live free in Christ. She is the founder of I Choose My Best Life, a movement to renew hope in a generation where depression, stress, and fear are peaking. JENNIFER TAYLOR is a music and profile contributor for Leading Hearts magazine. HEATHER VAN ALLEN is a music reviewer and profile contributor for Leading Hearts magazine. KAREN WHITING is an international speaker, former television host, and author of twenty-two books. She’s led and worked in ministries for many years. www




Leading Hearts March / April 2017  

Just in time for St. Patty’s Day, Leading Hearts is giving you a Pinch to GROW ON! Is God challenging you to to move forward in faith in you...

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