faith hope love
God’s Not Dead & Staying the Course Child Psychologist Dr. James Dobson
The Importance of Building a Family Legacy Prolific Athletes
Top Sports Stars Trained in Speed & Character
Walking by Faith, Not by Sight
NikKingWallenda of the High Wire Winter 2014
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Stepping Out in Faith When I first heard about Nik Wallenda so many different thoughts went through my head ranging from, “What makes a person want to walk across a wire between skyscrapers 600+ feet high? to, “Why would a person put themselves at risk for entertainment purposes?” After talking to this King of the High Wire and watching his televised tight rope event, it was clear where his passion and courage come from. Not only is he a seventh generation member of The Flying Wallendas family, but he also has an unwavering heritage of faith and a bold commitment to following the Lord. Between his nine Guiness World Records, the thirty-five-year-old father of three shares more about his background, family, and incredible faith in our cover story. Stepping out in faith is something the band Newsboys knows all about as well. Their single, “God’s Not Dead (Like A Lion),” was a source of encouragement to remind fans that God is very much alive and at work in their lives. The encouragement to be bold resonated with millions once again this past spring as the song was featured in a movie with the same name that made more than 60 million dollars at
the box office. The lead singer, Michael Tait, and drummer, Duncan Phillips, share more about success, coming to know Christ, and give some much-needed advice for all. Speaking of advice, I was raised on the recommendations and teachings of Dr. James Dobson and now a whole new generation will be able to be influenced by his biblicalbased approach to parenting. He founded Focus on the Family and now heads up Family Talk radio broadcasts. His new book and current film, Building A Family Legacy, are essential tools when it comes to helping kids grow up committed to Christ. In the midst of the holiday season, I hope that you find time to connect with family, have the courage to step out in faith, and show a boldness to those around you when it comes to the importance of living a Christ-centered life. Blessings, Kelli Gillespie
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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF :: Kelli Gillespie CONTRIBUTING WRITERS :: Vicki Hesterman, Patti Gillespie, Shelley Barski, Jim Rooney, Kelli Gillespie, Charlie Lapastora COPY EDITOR: Patti Gillespie INTERNS: Cristina Lopez
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The views and opinions expressed by the subjects interviewed are not necessarily those shared by the publisher or staﬀ of Risen Media, LLC. All interviews remain the sole property of Risen Magazine. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of Risen Media, LLC. Copyright © 2014 “Risen” is a Trademark of Risen Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Cover Photo :: Discovery Communications
08 Dr. James Dobson
Prominent Child Psychologist Emphasizes Importance of Building a Family Legacy
12 Prolific Athletes
Speed Coach Trains Top Athletes for Life On and Off the Field
departments Miracle 44
30 Philip Yancey
Best-Selling Author on the Worldâ€™s Grace Crisis
36 Pastors Philip and Holly Wagner
From Love and Marriage, to Cancer and Communication
The Center 4 Life Change
Center Offers a Different Approach of Guidance and Hope for Individuals and Families of Addiction
22 Nik Wallenda
Walking by Faith, Not by Sight: Meet the King of the High Wire
How Simple Acts of Courage are Changing the Lives of Women in Bondage Across the Nation
54 Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day:
Jennifer Garner & Steve Carell
56 Interstellar: Matthew McConaughey
The Band on Godâ€™s Not Dead and Staying the Course
64 The Holiday BookList
Recommended Reading for Toddlers through Teens
Prominent Child Psychologist
Emphasizes Importance of Building a Family Legacy
Writer: Kelli Gillespie
aving written more than 40 books and called by Time Magazine as “The nation’s most influential evangelical leader,” James Dobson, Ph.D., is a recognized authority on Christian parenting. For 14 years he served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine, and served 17 years on staff at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. The leading psychologist went on to found Focus on the Family in 1977, which he led until 2003. In 2010, he founded Family Talk and his radio show broadcasts to over 300 stations nationwide. His original, seven part film series on the family, was seen by more than a third of the population – 80 million people at the time. His current film and book, Building A Family Legacy, is now available for a whole new generation. Risen sat down with Dobson to talk about everything from raising his own to kids to helping all kids grow up committed to Christ.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Your insights on parenting previously changed a generation. Now a whole new generation of kids and parents will additionally be able to learn from your wisdom. Talk to me about the key elements of Building a Family Legacy? Dr. James Dobson: I have been at this for 44 years. At the time I started, I was at USC School of Medicine and was doing research as a professor of pediatrics and I was enjoying what I was doing. But I saw the world changing and I saw families changing. I don’t want to sound like Father Time here, but I realized where the family was going and I really anticipated the problems the family is facing right now. So I did a scary thing and resigned from the coveted position and opened a little two-room office and began writing for parents because I really believe that is the most important thing on our agenda. I’ve been at it a long time, but it just becomes more important, and certainly more important to me, and my family. All the time things are changing and things are rapidly deteriorating for the family. And that’s why this new series and the book have been written and prepared. RM: What are the points in scripture that guide that process/journey? JD: Everything that I write, and everything that I have taught, through all these years, has come from scripture – that is the owner’s manual. If parents are not consulting that source, then they are depriving themselves of a tremendous amount of information. The very beginning of it all is the Gospel itself – to introduce your children to Christ, and that is not easy to do. A lot of parents are so busy and they are running so fast, they hardly know their
kids, and the years go by so quickly. Many of them are growing up without a true understanding of what the Good News is all about. And that is really what I define as a legacy. There are really two definitions of legacy that are currently believed in this culture. The first is an inheritance. People think of a legacy like an inheritance, it’s what you leave, it’s your will, it’s your estate, and it’s often related to financial matters. I have a different understanding of the word legacy. Let me put it this way, an inheritance is something you give to someone, and a legacy, as I define it, is what you build in someone – it is character, it is values, it is principles, it is scriptural understandings – that is the legacy you’ll want to leave. And while we are busy earning the money, working and trying to build a home, we cannot forget the task of teaching and training, and building the legacy of faith into your children. RM: With all the outside influences and temptations, how can parents help their kids to grow up with conviction and a heart that doesn’t stray from the Lord? JD: In the first place you have to acknowledge and understand the culture is not going to help you with that. Our culture is at war with parents. It’s contradicting what they say. Send your kids off to public schools and they will not only hear things from their fellow students, but frequently from those that teach them, things that we don’t believe as committed Christians. It is so important to recognize that we have to do that job ourselves. Yes, we send our kids to church and we want them to be in strong youth groups, but risenmagazine.com 09
JD: You had very smart parents obviously [Laughter]. You just might have a strong-willed child and if you do, I have a book for you too.
everything that I have taught, through all these years, has come from scripture –
that is the owner’s manual.
that is one day a week. Sometimes Sunday morning and maybe one other event during the week, but as a parent you are with your kids every day. The book of Deuteronomy, chapter six, makes it very clear that it is not enough to just pray little prayers – these are my interpretations of what I read there – it’s not enough to just say a bedtime prayer. What Moses was telling the children of Israel as they were getting ready to go into the Promised Land was that you must remember the most important thing to teach your kids is that God loves them, He cares about them, He created them, and that when you go for a walk you point out that the flowers and the trees, and the clouds and that everything there was His creation. And He knows how He wants us to live, and He wants us to love Him; you do that all day, every day in the most tactful way that you can. If you don’t get that done, when you die, and your children grow up not to know those things, and not love Christ, and not to enter into a relationship with Him, when they come to the end of their lives, you will never see them again. That’s what I believe and if it’s that important, then it ought to be intentional for us as parents as our children come through the years.
RM: I bet I will! When it came to parenting your own children what was one thing you knew you had to get right above all else, and what was one thing, maybe in hindsight, you would’ve handled differently? JD: Well my obligation was not just to talk a good game about the family. Shirley (his wife) and I felt so strongly about our obligation to live it, and teach it at home, that there would be consistency between what I was telling everybody else and what we were trying to live out. We did that in the early years by building relationships with our kids. If you don’t build a relationship, your kids don’t want to follow you unless you take the time to play with them and talk with them and in our case to ski with them, and travel with them, and to spend endless hours talking together. That was my primary objective even more than what I teach because I believe it so strongly. Looking back, no one is a perfect parent – absolutely they do not exist. As I look back on our parenting there are things we could’ve and should’ve done better, but they both love the Lord. Our son, Ryan, has just written a book called, Wanting to Believe, because we did build a relationship and he works with me here at Family Talk and we just love working together. Our daughter is an evangelist. She’s not a minister, but she loves the Lord and will share it with anybody that wants to hear it. So we didn’t do everything right, but we got that right and I’m grateful to God for it. RM: Prayer is such a crucial component and even generationally we can see the impact of praying families. In your own life, how do you hear the Lord and know you are proceeding the way He wants you to? JD: You have to be sure that what you are praying about is scriptural and that you are trying to do what God asks you to do. I lean very heavily on providential circumstances. If I think it’s right to leave the university [USC] and start another ministry [Focus on the Family] that is just a strong impression, but I also watched very carefully to see what God was doing. I think one of our major authors said something like, “ You find out where God is leading and you get behind it and try to do what God is asking you to do.” If you are wrong, you’ll know it. He will tell you. But usually God does not just split the sky and absolutely tell you everything He is doing and thinking. That works out in time. And if your heart is right, you will find out what it is He wants you to do.
RM: With your influence across the globe, your writings and teachings, you’ve helped so many families and also taken quite a bit of criticism from those opposing your views. When did you know this would be your calling and did you embrace it right away? JD: I have never looked back and I have never been particularly concerned about criticism. I might tell you that the popular conception of the criticism of me through the years has been greatly overstated. I really don’t take a lot of flak, I get a lot more love than I deserve. Besides that, it is in the Lord’s hands and if He wants me to do this, criticism really shouldn’t be a deterrent. RM: My parents raised me on several of your titles including Dare to Discipline and now that I am pregnant they assured me I need Bringing Up Boys… 10 Risen Magazine
James Dobson with his son Ryan
12 Risen Magazine
Speed Coach Trains Top Athletes for Life On and Off of the Field
Writer: Jim Rooney Photographer: Rob Springer
n the world of athletics, there are two thoughts that are universally held about speed. The first is, “speed kills.” Coaches, programs, owners and even fans know that the faster you are as an athlete, or even as a team, the more productive you can be on the field. Much attention these days is given to how fast a player can be or how much team speed a particular squad might have. Time and resources are given to finding and featuring fast which in turn leads to the second widely held belief about speed, which is this, You can’t teach it. Ryan Flaherty, founder and owner of Prolific Athletes in Carlsbad, California, disagrees. His entire business and training philosophies are set up around teaching speed. He loves leaving the myth, Either they got it, or they don’t, in his ever accelerating dust. Prolific Athletes teaches speed. They teach it well, they teach it consistently, they teach it scientifically and they teach it liberally. Thousands of hours of research have helped to carve out ridiculously predictable results for all ages of athletes that walk through the unassuming garage style doors for help. The stats have more than spoken for themselves. Since opening those doors in 2012, the relatively unassuming warehouse on a back business block in the sleepy, surf, seaside village of Carlsbad has turned out some of the most prolific (pun intended) athletes of present day. Jonny Manziel, aka Jonny Football, the former Heisman winner and current Cleveland Brown, took off nearly half a second while training with Prolific for less than two months before last year’s NFL draft. If that isn’t enough to quickly turn heads in the sporting world, Manziel’s favorite target at Texas A&M, Wide Receiver, Mike Evans also trained at Prolific. His increases in fast twitch production saw him selected seventh overall in that same draft. Both athletes rocketed up the charts thanks to Flaherty’s potent application of Prolific’s fast-making formula. risenmagazine.com 13
Brett Swain, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, working on speed training. 14 Risen Magazine
Other athletes who have benefitted include Jameis Winston (Florida State University quarterback & youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers & Five-time NBA Champion), Barry Zito (Cy Young Award Winner & World Series Champion), Kai Lenny (Stand Up Paddle World Championship winner), Meb Keflezighi (2014 Boston Marathon Winner & 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist), the Philippines Olympic Track and Field team, and over 250 other professionals. All gained “unteachable” speed through Flaherty’s approach. And while Prolific boasts a very impressive client list of professionals, these same extraordinary results have been conspicuously noticed by local parents of players at the youth and high school levels. As the result of Flaherty’s coaching, parents attest that their kids seem to have gone from being the slowest kid on the team to the fastest. The passion Prolific has for accelerating the careers of the younger generation is not surprising considering Flaherty’s own rise to the NFL began in the same zip code where his business now resides. A football and track career at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad sent him on to the gridiron at Utah State and eventually a mini camp and pre-season with the 49ers. Injuries then sidelined him from playing the game permanently. However, his love for helping others could not be hamstrung. He came back to his roots, wiser for the wear, and began passionately sharing what he had discovered, athletically, spiritually and practically. Whether Pro, or Joe, Flaherty wants all his athletes to be more prolific than he is, on and off the field. The problem is keeping up with him. It’s not hard to see his star will only continue to rise. The sporting giant Nike has already taken notice of the productive people and processes Prolific has churned out. They have brought Flaherty on as one of 18 experts from around the country to sit on their Performance Council. A distinctive honor, Flaherty still doesn’t let it get to his head. Despite all the athletic success he and his clients share, nothing makes him happier than seeing them succeed on the fast track, in the game of life. Risen caught up with Flaherty at the Prolific Athletes facility, to chat with him about being an influence in the world of sports, why he treats people like he does, and how he gets premier athletes to take it up a notch.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in Carlsbad, California
Risen Magazine: Was it always your dream to train professional athletes? Where did that desire come from? Ryan Flaherty: No! I never set out to train professional athletes. From what I saw at the collegiate level, I realized there was huge lack of this knowledge in high school and below. I thought, “How can I get the training that I had to the youth and high schoolers?” It all really built from there. I always took the philosophy that whoever I was training, I would make their experience, whether it was a youth or a pro, the best I possibly could and I would take their results on as if they were my own. I make their goals my goals. So whether they are an eighth grader, or sophomore in high school, or a professional athlete, it has really served me well. It’s all really built from there. Every athlete I’ve worked with has been based off word of mouth referral from the last athlete. I’ve been blessed in that. It was a matter of not setting my sights too high, but just focusing on what I could do that day, doing the best job I could with the athlete I was working with at the time. That’s lead to me working with some of the best athletes in the world. RM: What part did your faith play in that journey? RF: It’s crazy. It’s been incredible to look back and see how integral God has been in the process, where I’ve come from and where I am today. When I first started training athletes, I was a young Christian. I didn’t fully understand what it meant to live by the Word God gave us and how to be that example for others. My career has grown with my faith. It’s been amazing to see those two coincide with each other. RM: Your company name is Prolific Athletes. What’s the meaning behind that?
RF: It’s all based off of [the Bible verse] John 15:5. To me, it just talks about keeping Christ at the center of your life and you’ll bear much fruit. When I first started reading the Bible ten years ago, it was a verse that stuck out to me. I just held that really close. If I held Jesus really close, I would bear much fruit, and at the time, I wasn’t bearing any fruit. I was in a really difficult time in life. My Mom had just passed away, football had ended for me, and my career was over. I had a big injury, and I really didn’t know where I was going to go. That verse really stood out to me and I held it really close to me. Then around the time I was starting the business, I had a number of people mention the word “prolific” to me. I just knew that I wanted my business to bear that same kind of fruit. It’s been a great way to subtly introduce our athletes to God. RM: It’s clear that you really have a heart for your athletes off the field as well as on it. You want them “bearing fruit” on the field as well as off. Where does that come from in you? RF: To me it all goes back to God being the center. When I was first beginning my journey, I found the way I had first experienced Christ to be the best. It was through people who had been through similar struggles that I had been through and they shared their stories with me – that really rang true to me. Initially, when I was training with athletes I found the best way for me to connect to them was the same way others had connected with me – just being real and just being myself. Telling them all the mistakes I’ve made, and that these are the consequences of those mistakes, and this is the reason I am where I am today. I have been where they are now. Having someone around who has been where they are instantly drops walls. It allows us to connect on a deeper level. I’ve been there and I know risenmagazine.com 15
Anthony Toribio, defensive tackle for the Kansas City
he only problem we run into is that most approaches are based off of one philosophy or another. Our approach is based solely off science. that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. The average NFL career only lasts 2.5 seasons. So I know the work we do off the field will last far longer than our work on it. I know it’s not all as glamorous as it’s made out to be in the newspapers and on ESPN. I experienced it. I knew what it was to have your identity wrapped up in it and to have that taken away. But I also moved on from that too. It’s like, “ You’re just a normal guy and I know where you are and I know 16 Risen Magazine
how to help you.” I want them to know that I’m not just hanging around them because they’re stars. I’m not wrapped up at all in who they are on the field. They always get surprised that I don’t ask for tickets. That becomes evident as guys come back to train with me year after year. I care more about them as people then I do about them as players. It’s not by me immediately talking about my faith, it’s more about me setting an example. Regardless of how bad they screw up I just try and be there for them. It’s how the relationship continues to grow. It’s amazing how God keeps bringing me guys who need guidance. Johnny Manziel was a big one and now Jameis Winston. They hear about me through the training results, but I know that it’s the character development stuff that will really last. RM: Who is an athlete that you have really connected with off the field? RF: I’ll give you two stories. The first is Mike Evans. He had a really tough upbringing; sports was his “out.” His dad was killed in a gang shooting when he was nine years old. He was raised by a single mom in a really rough neighborhood and then had a daughter when he was only eighteen years old. Through that, he would talk about God, but he didn’t have Him at the center of His life. He didn’t want to lose the tough exterior. For the four months he was with us before the combine, we saw a ton of growth in him. We were able to do a lot of character development workshops with him. The big break through came when we saw him on
stage after being drafted, he gave praise to His Lord and Savior in front of the commissioner on live television. I put my hands in the air! It was really confirmation that the work I was doing off the field was working. We still keep in touch and he’s really sticking with making great decisions at Tampa Bay. The other story is Manziel. I almost hate to say it, but people see Johnny Football and that’s who they believe he is. Really he’s a 21-year-old kid from Kerrville, Texas –population 23,000 – who overnight became a star and didn’t have the skills to handle that type of success and access to these celebrities. More people around him at Texas A&M wanted to be his friend, but no one wanted to keep him accountable. Right away we established a relationship based on trust. He trusted that I had his best interest at heart and that I was going to keep him accountable. I didn’t want to be his friend. I didn’t want to go hang out with him and some rapper. He saw that. He and I have developed this relationship where I am at least able to be an example for him. I’m just there for him. We both know it will be a process but he knows I’ll be there for him no matter what.
Florida State University Quarterback Jameis Winston with Ryan Flaherty
RM: It’s amazing to have that influence. Obviously you have to have the results to attract guys like Manziel and you have a very unique system. Where did that come from? RF: Growing up I was always held back by my speed until I was introduced to a track and field coach who taught me how to sprint. From that point on, I went from being known as the slow kid to being known as the fast kid. Even from my experiences when I was young, a lot wasn’t right, and no one really understood where speed came from. So I set out to learn that. Through research and studies we did, I found out that speed is all about your strength to weight ratio. Simply, if we can improve this ratio, then we can improve speed. We rate that on a number scale between one, being the least, and four, being the most. When Manziel came in, his force number was 2.4. We improved his force number to 3.2 in 8 weeks. His 40 yard dash dropped .4 seconds and his vertical jump increased 8 inches. We had incredible results with that process. We’re in the process, partnering with Nike, to get that information out to youth and high school kids. There is a lack of information out there and coaches at that level generally don’t know what the top performance coaches and athletes do. The only problem we run into is that most approaches are based off of one philosophy or another. Our approach is based solely off science. We think that as we put out more results, more people will want to know what we know, and train how we train. RM: How did you get the attention of Nike? RF: The relationship really developed organically through them seeing the results our athletes were getting. Nike then approached me last year to help bring a scientific approach to strength and speed to their company. I was appointed to the Nike Performance Council, which is made up of 18 academics, coaches, trainers, M.D.s and Ph.D’s. They really want to make sure that they keep their approach in design as scientifically accurate as possible. They have a number of amazing designers, but they want to make sure they continue to help athletes as best they can. It’s been really great to have that influence in such a huge company. To make a suggestion about a new shoe and then see that shoe on the shelf has been an awesome process. They’ve really begun to dig deeper into what we’re doing at Prolific and we’re really hoping to bring it out to the masses as quickly as possible.
Kai Lenny, a 7-time World Champion Stand Up Paddle surfer, working on his vertical leap
RM: The most recent Nike Performance Councill you were at was envisionrisenmagazine.com 17
ing what exercise is going to look like in the year 2040. What are your predictions there? RF: Man. There were a lot of big thinkers in that room. There were people from the technology space and medical space who have dreamed a lot about the future. I was the only performance coach or trainer in the room. They kept asking me, “What do you think?” I had to say that I didn’t think technology was going to go as far in helping us exercise as they thought it would. I think mostly our information is going to improve over time. For instance, we may improve the process of how we use tech to say, check our blood markers or certain genetic markers on a daily level. We may even use science to a more effective level in how we work out, but I still think there’ll be a premium on teaching people how to use their bodies correctly in exercise. I just don’t think it will change that much.
Johnny Manziel lifting weights 18 Risen Magazine
RM: What’s something you wish you had have known when you were playing that you now know and use to train others? RF: We’re finding with the force number that there is almost no limit with human performance. If your goal was to have a 50 inch vertical jump, then we could get you there! We would just need to get your
Cleveland Brown’s Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football, training with Ryan Flaherty
strength to weight ratio to what we’d need it to be to jump 50 inches. I wish I had that. It’s fun to dream about. RM: Having that combination of science with results while still maintaining a genuine heart for people had to develop from somewhere. Who have your heroes been? RF: Growing up as a young kid, Michael Jordan was somebody I looked up to purely based on his story. I wasn’t the best athlete as a kid – basketball, baseball or football player. So hearing about Jordan not making his high school team and the practice time he put in, and how many shots he took in a day and in a week, to make himself into what he became was really inspiring. To see a guy that was the best of the best and it was through, not just talent, but hard work. I really related to that. That’s what I truly believe and can attest to, having worked with some of the best professionals on the planet. These guys and girls are some of the hardest working people. They work harder at what they do than any other profession I’ve ever been around. They work their butts off ! Jordan was the first one I saw exampling that and I truly believe mimicking his work ethic helped me to get to where I am and help others get there too. Another is Mike Swider, the longtime head football coach at Wheaton
College. He was a big influence on me as well, especially hearing him speak a few times on how he coaches the athletes he works with. Everything he said rang so true with me. He wasn’t in it to live vicariously through his athletes or for his own self-promotion. You could tell he was in it for the right reasons. I suffered through some coaches like that, whose hearts weren’t in the right place. He had such a grip on how his words could have a huge effect on a kid. It’s amazing how one derogatory comment can stick with a kid for the rest of his life. I loved that he talked not just about coaching football players, but coaching men, future husbands, brothers, cousins and uncles. I wish I could have played for him! Through hearing him, it really changed the way I coached and spoke to athletes. I know he changed my trajectory as a coach. From that day forward I was going to coach the person, the heart of the athlete, more than I was going to coach the on-the-field performance. Coach Nick Ruscetta (Former head coach at Santa Fe Christian High School in Solana Beach, where Flaherty got his coaching start) was also a huge influence on me. He was the first man I ever saw who truly cared so much more about coaching the kid than what the scoreboard said. He always had the kids’ best interest at heart. He viewed football as a privilege, but if you weren’t doing the right thing off the field and showing the kids risenmagazine.com 19
how to be men, then the football part was meaningless. He really helped shaped me as a coach. Being able to see that with Coach Ruscetta gave me the example to follow. So whether it’s Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers quarterback), or a local high school kid, then I want to coach them all the same way. They’re treated the same way. My investment is in them as people. RM: What’s some advice you would give to the training world in general? Are there any changes you’d want to see in that area? RF: Too many people are trying to make the weight room and the speed training the focus of the elite athlete. I would say that training should just be general. A majority of an athlete’s time should be focused on the sport or skill they’re playing. I’ll explain it like this. If a professional athlete is going to go practice today and then going to work out also, then their work out should only be a third of the time of what they’re focusing on with their skill. Usually in today’s training world, it’s opposite. In the off-season, I’ll see guys that will do speed and weight training four days a week and only run routes or catch balls one day a week. I think it should be reversed. My other piece of advice almost contradicts this, but it’s specific for youth. I tell parents all the time to hold off on learning the specifics of a sport and help their kids learn how to run and be a good athlete. Sprinting is so technical. If they learn that technique at a young enough age, it changes the trajectory of their athletic career. The last thing I’ll say for all athletes is that over training is a huge problem. A lot of injuries are coming because of this. Each athlete we train gets 48 hours of recovery before the next training session. This is so their central nervous system has a chance to recover. Your body only grows and develops during recovery. If you’re shorting this than you won’t see the results that you want. Cy Young Award Winner Barry Zito
Ryan Flaherty with members of the Philippines Olympic Track & Field team 20 Risen Magazine
RM: You see a whole gamut of athletes come through your doors. What’s one last piece of advice you’d give anyone who wants to take
Ryan Flaherty working with Mike Evans, a former star receiver at Texas A&M. Credit David Wiesley
their performance up a level? RF: I’ll use the NFL as an example. Some guys have a ton of talent but below average work ethic. Those are the athletes who only play one to two seasons, they might make a team, but they’ll flush out pretty quickly. Then you’ll find the guys who have below average talent, but a really good work ethic. They too might make a practice squad, might make the team, but also aren’t going to last as long. Then you have the athletes who have the talent and have the work ethic. Those turn out to be your pro-bowlers and make it the furthest. You won’t find a guy who plays a long time in the NFL if the work ethic isn’t there. These guys work really, really, really hard. Find encouragement in that. Couple that with the right knowledge on how to develop, using the force number I think would help, and you’ll accomplish far more than depending on your talent alone. Talent is easy to take for granted though. People think a guy like Cam Newton only has talent and hasn’t worked hard to get where he is. Nothing is farther from the truth. I have to kick so many of these guys out of the gym to keep them from training too much. Set a goal to have a world-class work ethic! RM: What’s one of the lessons that has stuck most with you on your journey? RF: Coming through a really tough time like I did, suffering a career ending injury and losing my mom to cancer all in the same year, it was easy to question God. I’d think, “Why is all this happening to me? Why did I have to go
was going to coach the person, the heart of the athlete, more than I was going to coach the on-the-field performance. through this struggle?” Looking back on it now, it’s been amazing to see that God was just trying to get me to realize what my true passion was. I am so glad now that I didn’t play longer in the NFL. I am so happy to be where I am and be influencing the people that I am, at the level that I am. This is where God wanted me to be. We can be so near-sighted. We just see where we are today, but can miss His master play. Keep that faith. Know that soon you’re going to reach your passion. It might not be where you pictured it to be. It wasn’t for me. It wasn’t through me playing. But I have so much more joy and so much more influence with people than I ever could have imagined. It’s amazing once you find the passion God has for you in life. I think I’m a true testament to that. risenmagazine.com 21
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Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photography: Courtesy of Discovery Communications
ik Wallenda is a seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas family of aerialists. His ancestors have been circus performers since the 1700s and have been doing balancing acts without nets since Karl Wallenda, his great-grandfather, made the family famous in the 1920s. At 73 years old, Karl died after falling from a tight rope in Puerto Rico. But that didn’t keep the family from forging on, or Nik from wanting to carry the family legacy to even more incredible heights. To date Nik Wallenda holds nine Guiness World Records, including two that were just set at his most recent wire walk in Chicago – one for walking the steepest tightrope incline between two buildings, and the other for the highest tightrope walk while blindfolded. He has walked over the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and even proposed to his future wife, Erendira, on a wire 30 feet high during a performance in Canada. Before every walk, Wallenda joins his family in prayer and always wears a cross as he performs. His emphasizes that his relationship with God is the center of his life. Risen talked with the thirty-five-year-old father of three after his most recent skyscraper wire walk to learn more about his background, family, and incredible faith.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine Risen Magazine: Take me back to how it all started and how you decided to carry on the The Flying Wallendas family tradition? Nik Wallenda: My family started performing on wires back in the 1780’s, so for seven generations, and for more than 200 years, this is what we have been doing. My great-grandfather brought the family over to the United States to perform in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1928. Our first performance was actually in New York City at Madison Square Garden. We performed all over the world and I’m just carrying on an amazing legacy and blessed to be in the shoes that I’m in. RM: Was there ever a question or opportunity for you to go into something different or did you just know this type of performing was your calling? NW: Oh absolutely, I was actually on my way to becoming a pediatrician. I was going to go to Southeastern University, which is a Bible college in Lakeland, Florida, and I was set to become a pediatrician when I was 18 years old. But if you read my book [Balance: A Story of Faith, Family, and Life on the Line] it tells the story of why I changed direction and ended up carrying on the legacy. (At age 19, Wallenda participated in a re-creation of his great-grandfather Karl’s, seven-person pyramid on a high wire alongside other family members. After seeing the media attention and recognizing that, “There was definitely a future. [The live circus industry] was not dying, it’s just changing.” He decided to make a career of it saying. “I knew then what I was born to do.”) RM: When did faith first become real to you, when you knew it wasn’t just something that was part of your family heritage, but that you wanted to make it an integral part of your life? NW: From a really young age. I gave my life to Christ when I was four years old and I knew at that point how important it was and that it wasn’t just something that the family did; it wasn’t tradition. Throughout my entire life from 9, 10, 11 and 12 years old, I remember situations where God played a
key role in decisions that my parents made and by seeing how faithful God was at those times was really what lead to me being who I am today. RM: How has your faith then been woven into your preparation and performance when it comes to your talent? NW: My faith is a key component to my entire life. If I’m dealing with a car accident or my teenage son at school with a problem, I always seek God first. In any stressful situation God provides a peace that surpasses all understanding. I do spend a lot of time with God, not just in my career, but in general. The Bible says to pray without ceasing. So, I’m constantly talking to God. I think it kind of goes without saying after every event thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of emails, notes, and messages come to me from people asking, “How do you stay calm like that?” or, “There’s something different about you.” This is because God provides peace even though I’m doing something seemingly impossible; God gives me this overwhelming peace. So my prayer leading up to a walk is peace, of course guidance and wisdom, and the fact God will use me to somehow touch the lives of other people. Really that’s what’s it about for me. I don’t believe that God holds me on the wire, I don’t believe it’s a supernatural force that holds me up there, I believe that God has given me this talent and I choose to use the talent that God has given me to bring glory to His name. Similar to Tim Tebow, who God has given him the talent of throwing a football and he chooses to use the platform God gave him, to bring glory to God’s name. I just have a little bit of a more unique talent; there are more football players than there are wire walkers. [Laughter] But really we both have the same thought, the same concept, and the same ideas. RM: You had 50,000 plus people watching you on the ground in Chicago. TV viewers domestically and in so many countries around the world watched and it’s very clear that Christ is at the center of all you do. NW: I’m not shy about it and I think more of us need to be bold. We need to risenmagazine.com 25
be bold in our faith; I think we are too shy and reserved. I think God wants us to be bold. That is our first, and foremost calling in life, to lead others to Christ. That’s what we are called to do here on this earth. I’m not shy about it; this is who I am. Modern society says, “Don’t do that, people aren’t going to watch if you are talking about Jesus.” My last TV special was the highest rated TV special in the history of the biggest network in the world, seen around the world. I’m not shy about it. God is forming no one to be against me and I truly believe that. There is no reason to be ashamed of the glory of God’s name and if people don’t like it, I have said publicly before, “If you don’t like hearing me proclaim the name of Jesus, and you enjoy watching what I do, then push the mute button on the TV.” God works in supernatural ways and lives will be touched and glory be to God. That’s what I prayed as I walked that wire in Chicago, “Let God have the glory. It’s not about Nik Wallenda, it’s the platform that God has given Nik Wallenda… let Him be glorified through it all.”
RM: Through your testimony of stepping out in boldness, you are showing people that something may seem impossible, but it is actually possible with the right mindset and preparation. What would you say to others who doubt themselves when it comes to career paths or raising a family? NW: We as a society, and I’m guilty of it too, discourage more than we encourage. Somebody says, “Hey I’m going to open up a pizza restaurant.” And I say, “Pizza? How are you going to do that? There are pizza restaurants everywhere, why would you do that?” As the one receiving that, you are thinking, “Oh yeah, you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t do this. How am I going to do that?” And the truth is, if you make the best pizza in town it doesn’t matter how many competitors there are, or how long they have been there, you are going to be busier than anyone else and you will be successful. I encourage people not focus on the negative, but focus on the positive. Before I lead up to a wire walk my mind often – because of the media,
don’t believe that God holds me on the wire, I don’t believe it’s a supernatural force that holds me up there, I believe that God has given me this talent and I choose to use the talent that God has given me to bring glory to His name.
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(Far left) Pastor Joel Olsteen, (Far Right) Nik Wallenda beside his wife Erendira as he prays with his kids and family before his Skyscraper walks in Chicago.
they want to talk about the negative, and the dangers, and the risks, and I understand that, it’s part of the hype to buildup an audience for what I do – I’m constantly battling those negative thoughts. But I have a direct line to the Creator and I believe God has all things for a purpose and I believe that the weather will be calm and if it isn’t, then I will not get on the wire in the first place. I will postpone; there is a lot of common sense that goes into what we do. I’m able to stay calm because I know God is the Creator and He’s the one that paves the way and as long as I have faith in Him, I can accomplish anything. I encourage people to be bolder, take those steps, pursue your dreams and don’t give up. As believers we often get doors shut in our face and we immediately want to say, “Oh, God closed that door.” Maybe not, we have a deceiver out there that doesn’t want us to succeed and he might be the one closing those doors – so don’t give up! You need to seek God and [to see] if your desires and your dreams align with God’s Word, and it’s a desire that God has placed in your heart like Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in Him and don’t lean on your own understanding. Trust in Him with all your heart and He will fulfill those desires. But we as believers say, “God closed that door.” No, I think that it’s very seldom God closes that door. If your dreams align with his Word, I think He wants us all to be successful and blessed beyond measure. If there are questions just continue to seek God and He will give you a peace about it. RM: Obviously you’ve had numerous times in your life where you have had to depend on God, but where does that conviction and courage come from to pursue the Lord wholeheartedly? And what advice would you give
somebody who believes in the Lord, but is not sure what it looks like to practically live out faith? NW: It’s just practicing. Like for the wires, you practice, and you practice, and you practice; it’s the same with our faith in my opinion. There will be some doubts. I believe strongly in the Holy Spirit and often it’s confusing and you wonder, “Is that the Holy Spirit or is it me?” It’s about practicing and trying it again, and doing it again, and saying, “I don’t understand why, and I don’t understand how, but the Holy Spirit, He is always there for me and He is leading me and giving me wisdom.” And the more you learn to listen, the more that you test, the more bold you are, the more relevant, and the more familiar you get with His voice, then the more in touch you get with the Holy Spirit’s voice and that’s what it’s about. People are so concerned and think that they will be condemned [if they reach out to God] but I’d rather be condemned and have a crown in Heaven, and spend time with God here on earth, than to spend my life here for monetary value and have it mean nothing in the end. If I can lead one person to Christ and change one’s person’s life, it was worth me being put on this earth. The more bold I can be, the stronger I can be, the more lives I can touch and be a better example to believers and nonbelievers. God gave me a platform to millions and millions of nonbelievers around the world and for those people to see me stand up and see the confidence God gives me, I think that’s more of an example than anything – living an upright life and loving my wife. Here I am a daredevil, and you’d expect me to have tattoos everywhere, and be going out to the bar every night, and I’m really the first one in my hotel room at night. I don’t live that life risenmagazine.com 27
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whatsoever; I don’t fit that mold. There is something different about me and I love that question. I’ve heard it so many times growing up in life, “Why are you different? What makes you different?” Wow! What an opportunity God has given me. Every time someone asks me that question it’s just opening a door where I can answer, “Because I’m a daredevil.” Or I can answer, “Because of Jesus Christ living inside of me and this is why, and this is how you can be different.” It’s up to me on how I answer that question. And not being scared of being made fun of, or put down, because what does it matter in the end? None of it matters.
encourage people to be bolder, take those steps, pursue your dreams and don’t give up.
RM: What does your training regime look like? NW: I train low to the ground and I simulate all conditions – meaning wind machines, inclines, of course walking blindfolded, rigging conditions as close as we can get – but all very close to the ground. Having said that, I was still up 85 feet training for Chicago because of the needed incline. RM: When it comes to your day-to-day life, are you pretty calculated or do you have extreme streaks or impulses, or is wire walking the outlet of choice? NW: I consider wire walking way more calculated than you could imagine. I train to walk on a wire, grab a wire, catch a wire, and hang from a wire. I train to walk in 120mph winds – which have never knocked me off a wire – even though I would never get on a wire if winds were over 50mph. I train to drop down and grab a wire and hold on for 20 minutes even though rescue crews would be to me anywhere on that wire within 90 seconds. The wire is always at my feet and very safe. It’s very, very calculated. The rest of my life I am extremely reserved. People are blown away when they come to my house because they expect me to live on the beach and I don’t; it’s just not me. God says, “If I trust you with a little, I can trust you with a lot.” I’m definitely not foolish.
are all immediate family.
RM: It’s great to see your family is so involved from the type of shoes you are wearing to securing the wire in place. NW: Absolutely, I think that is just another godly example, my family is a key component to the success of my walks. From the shoes that make me safe, to the actual engineering so it is done properly, the rigging being put up right, to the safety of the actual walk – that is all family and very, very close friends. But those key players
RM: I saw a video vignette where you were coaching your kids. How do they feel about following in your footsteps or do you think they will choose another path? NW: I will coach my kids if they are on the wire, but never once in their lives have I told my kids to get on the wire and walk. You can ask any one of them. It is what they do for fun. It’s a cool thing to do and we have wires in our backyard and all the neighbors come over and try it. Would I teach them? Absolutely. At this point, they are not interested in carrying on in the family industry whatsoever. They want to go to college and do different things and I’m more than thrilled with that. I’m a parent that wants to see my children succeed and I encourage them to work hard no matter what they are doing. Whether they are working at a fast food restaurant, or becoming the President of the United States – you work as hard as you can at anything and you’ll be successful. That’s the way I’ve raised my kids and I don’t have even the slightest expectation of them carrying on what I do.
Alan and Lisa Robertson
Writer: Vicki Hesterman Photographer: Vicki Hesterman
est-selling author Philip Yancey writes his many books not as an expert but as a seeker of answers to core questions such as, “Does God really care about me?” His books cover topics from the relevance of the Old Testament (The Bible That Jesus Read) to an urgent call for Christians to reclaim their reputation as helpers known for their love (Vanishing Grace). A quiet sense of humor and quick smile show a joyful side to this writer known for thought-provoking books on suffering, pain, and issues of faith. His books have won 13 Gold-Medallion awards and two Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) Book of the Year Awards. Four have sold over a million copies, and 15 million books of his various titles are now in print. An engaging speaker, Yancey captivates his audience with fascinating anecdotes, energetic gestures, warmth and wit. “Words have a certain power and a certain weakness,” he said. “What I learned early on was that the reader is boss.” The best way to get the attention of a hostile, hurting world in need of good news is through grace. “I am convinced that we are in the middle of a grace crisis—what I call a grace gap,” he explained. Stunned at how far the positive reputation of Christians had fallen in the opinion of America’s “nones” (those who claim no religion) in the years since he wrote the book Amazing Grace, Yancey decided to find out why. “We are not here to win a popularity contest, but we are here to give the Good News. But we are not doing a good job of it because people don’t think good news when they think of us, they think bad news,” he related. “How did this happen? I didn’t know and when I don’t know something I write a book about it.” This question resulted in Yancey’s latest book, Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? Yancey compared someone with no religious convictions to one who is lost on a journey, rather than lost and condemned. “We all get lost sometimes,” he said while explaining his relief when, lost on a mountain trail, someone showed him a map and he found the right path. “We are called to dispense God’s grace. People aren’t always open to what we have to offer, but there are hinge moments when they are more open, a time when they are ready for grace.” His new book includes convincing examples of the significant grace-filled impact Christians have had on the world. Churchgoers donate four times as much to charity and volunteer with the poor and elderly twice as much as do secular Americans. Faith-based programs have a much higher success rate than secular ones in dealing with crime, alcoholism and drug addiction. A sociological study documents that missionaries have made a huge positive impact that continues today in such areas as literacy, women’s rights, and physical and economic health in those countries where they had a significant presence in the past. Yet despite all the good Christians do, and have done, Yancey concludes that their reputation – especially of evangelicals – does not reflect that fact. The Good News does not sound like good news to the unchurched. His interviews convinced him that what was needed was more grace and less judgment. Once grace is shown, he writes in his new book, the Gospel can be shared. Grace, Yancey believes, can bridge the enormous gap that divides Christians from those who claim no religion. The book also describes examples of Christians around the world that show grace and share the Gospel effectively. One way people can do this is by creating powerful art and literature reflecting spiritual truths. “Whenever I need a good model, I pick up the risenmagazine.com 31
Bible. God must love art because most of the Bible is expressed in the form of story or poetry,” Yancey writes. His own favorite Bible reference is not just a verse or two, but an entire chapter: Romans 8. Every morning he refreshes his spirit by spending about an hour praying, reading and meditating. On his personal side, Yancey and his wife, Janet, are avid mountain climbers, and have conquered all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 feet and higher peaks. They travel often, both internationally and domestically. He likes every food he has ever tasted, except tomatoes – which he abhors. Although a child of the sixties and a personal admirer of Bono’s activism, he listens only to classical music. Yancey approaches subjects he wants to learn about with the thoroughness of a journalist and the curiosity of an avid reader. He plans to write a memoir next year, focusing on his difficult fatherless childhood in Atlanta, Georgia, his fundamentalist, racist childhood church, and how he threw his faith aside and later embraced it again. Born and raised near Atlanta, Yancey, 65, has worked more than 40 years with words: as editor of Campus Life, an editor at Christianity Today and writer for for Reader’s Digest, The Saturday Evening Post, Publishers Weekly, Chicago Tribune Magazine, and Eternity, among others. He now lives in Colorado working as an editor-at-large for Christianity Today and travels around the world speaking and doing research for his books. Risen got a chance to sit down with him to learn more about his upbringing, marriage and displaying God’s grace.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: What sparked your love for writing? Philip Yancey: I needed a job! I was studying at the graduate school at Wheaton, a community where many Christian organizations had their headquarters. The publisher of Campus Life hired me as a campus reporter and I learned to write on the job. I had always worked on the school paper or yearbook, and my introverted personality fit the writer’s profile, but frankly I learned most of what I know by doing it, under wise supervision. RM: When did you know God was going to use you to connect with others spiritually? PY: I’m still rather flabbergasted by that connection. I write my books for myself, exploring the questions I need answers to in my own faith. When I get out in the public, I’m amazed to hear how my own struggles have resonated with readers. Writing is a lonely act. You only hear about the results long after the fact. RM: You had a fatherless, poverty-stricken childhood, and were raised in a church you have described as toxic. When and why did you break away and what caused you to embrace Christianity again? PY: God “graced” me – that’s all I can say. I had a dramatic conversion experience when I least expected it. I was attending a Bible College, though unhappily, the administration was regularly debating whether I should be asked to leave. Raised in a toxic church, I braced myself, waiting for God to smash my defenses. Instead God romanced me, using such things as the beauties of nature, classical music, and romantic love. Then at an unexpected time I received a kind of revelation and everything changed from that moment on. RM: Describe meeting your wife. How has that partnership helped you as a writer? 32 Risen Magazine
PY: We met at the Bible college I mentioned. Neither of us was what you’d call a “happy” student. Two misfits came together. Later I learned that she adopted me as kind of a social work project, which became her profession, by the way. I was one messed-up kid, only 17 when we first met, and not many students at that school knew how to relate to me. She took me on, and helped civilize me. RM: Your latest book, Vanishing Grace, was just released. How do you define grace, and why do you say it is vanishing? PY: I try to avoid defining grace, as it’s slippery and is best expressed through stories as Jesus did; the story of the prodigal son, the lost coin, the overpaid workers. The classic definition is “God’s unmerited favor.” We get not what we deserve but the opposite; God’s love instead of wrath, God’s forgiveness instead of punishment. God’s grace is not vanishing, of course, yet we Christians are not doing a good job of conveying that amazing grace. Recent polls show a dramatic decline in how the uncommitted view Christians. They view us as bearers of bad news, not good news. RM: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God,” [Hebrews 12:15] is a theme of your book. How do we start? PY: Ooh, where do I start?! Not wanting to write a scolding book, I filled the pages with stories of ordinary Christians who find ways to dispense God’s grace. Francis Collins gives a dramatic example in the gracious way he treated the atheist Christopher Hitchens, his bitter opponent in debates. Another woman in Toronto feels called to minister to telephone solicitors, those annoying marketers who call just as you’re taking the first bite of dinner. I identify three kinds of people who are especially good at dispensing grace to an increasingly hostile culture; activists, artists, and pilgrims. All
Philip Yancey in the Rocy Mountains... he and his wife have climbed all 54 of Coloradoâ€™s 14,000-foot-plus peaks. Photo: Courtesy Philip Yancey risenmagazine.com 33
of us can be activists, if only by supporting ministries of mercy. All of us are pilgrims and need to communicate that we’re on the same road, not a superior class of beings. The main difference is we know the destination and what we were created for. As for artists—well, they’re a special kind of breed and yet they find a way to communicate the message that is less threatening, more provocative, and often more effective. RM: Using the three categories you cited above, which one do you identify with most? PY: I approach my writing as an ordinary pilgrim in the pew, not an authority figure or expert. I try to represent the issues that all of us struggle with at times. I make mistakes, choose the wrong path, get lost – but at least I know the destination. RM: Christians all over the world do mission and volunteer work caring for the poor and sick. Yet when many hear the word Christian, they react negatively. What is driving this reaction? What can we do to change it? PY: Books like unChristian and The Next Christians spell out Barna Research that shows why people react negatively. They see us as anti. Anti-science, anti-gay, antiliberal, anti-sex. The stereotype portrays Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, selfrighteous, a kind of morals police who try to impose our beliefs on others. The media fuels this stereotype, of course. We have a major challenge in reversing that negative image, and I wrote the book to explore the last half of your question – how to change it. RM: What is the place of the Christian in today’s political arena? PY: No answer applies to everyone. Some feel called to protest. Some run for office. Some tackle the legal issues. And some simply vote. Each of us will answer that question in different ways. It’s important to remember though, that politics is an adversary sport. Think of recent elections and the hostility and slander involved. Christians are commanded to be gracefull towards adversaries. “Love your enemies,” Jesus said. “Pray for those who persecute you.” Christians who choose to be involved in politics have to walk a fine line, not adopting the weapons of electoral warfare but using what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the weapons of grace.” That principle applies to everyone, regardless of their particular role. RM: You wrote the book, Where is God When it Hurts? What is something in your life that hurt and how did you find God in the midst of it? PY: In 2007. I had an auto accident in which I broke my neck. My car rolled off a cliff in Colorado, tumbling over and over five times. For seven hours I lay strapped to a body board as doctors tried to determine if the broken bone had pierced a major artery. If so, I could die at any moment. That became a defining experience for me. Seven hours is a long time to think about imminent death. I could only find three questions worth considering: Who do I love? What have I done with my life? and Am I ready for whatever is next? I realized how easy it is to get distracted by other matters, such as books sold, money in the bank, 34 Risen Magazine
marriage problems, etc. That brush with death was a loud wake up call. I see suffering as a kind of hearing aid. We can turn up the volume and attend to what matters most. People grow most spiritually during hard times because they turn to God in desperation. On the other hand, some people turn off the hearing aid and give up on God at such a time. RM: Your books, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, In His Image, and The Gift of Pain, with Dr. Paul Brand, the British doctor who treated leprosy patients in India, had a huge impact on your life. How and why? PY: For one thing, I had no father figure. My own father died of polio when I was only a year old. More importantly though, Dr. Brand entered my life at a time when I was circling warily around faith trying to determine what I could believe. He showed me that God enlarges and fulfills life; so many Christians I knew seemed shrunken and unfulfilled. It only takes one person who is truly living a Godly life to silence skepticism and doubts. “So that’s what God had in mind,” I said again and again as I got to know Paul Brand. He spent his life in service to some of the most neglected people on the planet, low-caste leprosy patients in India, and yet emerged with a spirit of joyful thanksgiving, all the while being fully engaged as a scientist with the natural world. RM: You were asked to help comfort the Sandy Hook school community after the tragic shootings. How did you handle this and what do you think helped them the most? PY: I was terrified when I got the call to speak there. What could I possibly say to bring comfort to those grieving families? As I prepared though, I realized that we do indeed have words of comfort and hope. I could assure those parents that I knew where their children were – in the loving arms of God. Jesus said, “I am going away to prepare a place for you,” and also, “suffer the little children to come unto me.” At the time I was researching an article on the New Atheists, and I saw a stark contrast with those who have no hope, no comfort. We have a resurrection faith, and when you’ve lost a six- or seven-year-old child, you cling to that faith. RM: How often are you and Janet generally on the road? PY: We spend about a third of our time on the road, giving priority to international travel. My books are published in several dozen languages and we enjoy going to other countries in order to meet readers, speak to Christian groups, and collect experiences to inform my writing. In addition, I usually have at least one speaking trip a month here in the U.S. The last ten years Janet has been traveling with me on most trips. She’s bicultural, a missionaries’ kid, and a natural extrovert. At a book signing, she’s the perfect partner. RM: Do you write every day even if you are not working on a book? PY: I work on a book every day. Normally I spend about forty percent of my time getting ready to write - research, interviews, etc. – twenty percent composing, and forty percent cleaning up what I wrote in the editing process. I’m always working on one of those stages unless I’ve just returned from a trip, then I’m occupied paying bills and catching up on mail.
Philip Yancey talks with members of the San Diego Christian Writers Guild before he addressed their annual writers conference
RM: What are several recent books you have read that surprised, inspired or delighted you? PY: My Bright Abyss by the poet Christian Wiman was outstanding, rich, and poignant. Charles Marsh’s biography of Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory, was full of surprises. Country Driving in China shed some, not too much, light on that mysterious country. RM: What has been the most personally life-changing book you have read, and why? PY: G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. I had read the rational British apologists, such as C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams. Chesterton showed another approach, the romance of orthodoxy. Faith, like life, is an adventure to be lived, not a mathematical puzzle to be solved. When I read that book, walls fell down. RM: Recently in San Diego, you spoke four times in less than 24 hours. How do you stay in shape physically and spiritually? What do you do to relax and recharge? PY: Oh, I relax and recharge in all sorts of ways. In the summer in Colorado I mountain bike and climb mountains; in the winter I downhill and cross-country ski, ice skate and snowshoe. All these are great ways to avoid writing – and also to connect my body with the planet after a day of work inside my head. While traveling I exercise every other day, either by powerwalking, I had to stop running after some knee issues, or in the fitness center. As for jet lag, well, I’m something of an insomniac anyway. So I’m used to sleep deprivation. RM: How do you stay connected to a spiritual community when you travel so much? PY: Janet and I have a group of close friends who pray for us, specifically our marriage, as we travel. We report to them in the process, and of course
we connect with the group we’re ministering among. We attend a low-key, small church, and many of them faithfully pray for us too. And I keep a regular quiet-time regimen in the mornings no matter where I am. RM: Sometimes we have brief encounters – on planes, in waiting rooms – with people who are hostile towards or hurt by a church. How can a Christian best show grace and share faith in such a short time? PY: Just listen. As I’ve written, I grew up in a very unhealthy church. When someone starts to tell me their story, I think they expect me to defend the church. I’ll say something like, “Oh, don’t I know it. My church was even worse than what you describe.” Often they act surprised and want to know what kept me in the fold despite such a background. By squelching that defensive reflex, I actually open up a chance for real dialogue. RM: Does God love art? PY: Theology books usually begin their description of God with qualities like omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence. To me the most obvious quality is God’s artistic sense. The patterns on tropical fish on a coral reef, or even on the backs of beetles, exceed in beauty anything you can find in the world’s great art museums. I go hiking in the Rocky Mountains and turn a corner of a remote area only to find the ground covered with a carpet of spectacularly varied wild flowers. Any art that human beings create is only a pale reflection of the Master Artist. RM: What brings you joy? PY: For me, joy often comes as a companion to risk, such as heading down a cliff face on skis, or up the same cliff on a summer hike. But I like simpler joys too such as golfing on a beautiful course with good friends. Or finishing a book I’ve been working on for many months, or a mocha chocolate chip Frappuccino on a hot day. risenmagazine.com 35
36 Risen Magazine
rd of God is on that God en us, so no From Love and Marriage, to Cancer and Communication what fight e fighting, r me was my , you can he truth of .~Holly Wagner
Live What They Preach Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photographer: Henry Ortlip
hillip and Holly Wagner are the founding and leading pastors of the Oasis Church in Los Angeles. They’ve written books on dating, love, and mending marriages. They’ve founded a non-profit water organization, survived cancer, and recognize the importance of supporting the gifts of your spouse. While Oasis Church has grown and recently moved to new location on Wilshire Blvd, the building is actually a Los Angeles historic landmark built in 1926. Risen sat down with the duo, in their remarkable church setting to learn more about this driven husband-wife team.
I think sometimes young people feel like they need to have the whole picture, and all that does is paralyze them from taking the next step. ~Holly Wagner
The Word of God is the weapon that God has given us, so no matter what fight you are fighting, which for me was my health, you can declare the truth of His Word.~Holly Wagner
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine at the Oasis Church in Los Angeles, California
Risen Magazine: You are the pastors of Oasis Church in Los Angeles. As the church just hit its 30-year anniversary, take us back to how it started and what the culture of the church is today? Philip Wagner: [Oasis Church] began as a small Bible study in Beverly Hills with about ten people and when we decided to plant a church, we started with about thirty people. It took us a little while to figure out who we were and how we wanted to do ministry; we sort of copied people who we admired. Our church now is so racially diverse – significantly diverse – and people immediately notice when they come in here. I think we are used to thinking that racially-mixed is predominately white with a few African Americans or vice versa, but we have no majority. Whether it is Asian, Hispanic, black, white; all are represented within our church. We love the differences and it makes everything very fun. I love it and I believe that this is the way it should be. Also, our church has a large percentage of people in their twenties and thirties, which keeps it energetic. It is interesting to lead people who are trying to decide what they want to do with their lives. Holly Wagner: I think that the church really grew when we made the decision to build a church that we wanted to go to. Because at one point, about twenty-five years ago, we looked at our church and said, “We don’t like this church. If we weren’t the pastors, we wouldn’t go here.” And that was because we were trying to copy other people. So we decided we were just going to be ourselves and trust that God had called us for our personalities and our gifts. We quit being so formal, tweaked a few things and became who we are now, and that was when the church started to really grow. It’s been exciting. We wanted to create a church that, when people walked in, they said, “Oh! Home. This is normal. This feels good. It’s alive. It’s full of life.”
God has given us one body, and He has trusted us with this body to fulfill His purpose on the earth.
RM: When did you know ministry was what you were each being called to do? PW: I have known since I was a boy that I would be involved in ministry. I tried to ignore it and be my own version of Jonah for a while, but anytime I would reengage in my faith, it would automatically also involve serving and
leading and being part of a ministry. I didn’t know what that ministry would turn out to be, but I had been a music leader, a youth director, an assistant pastor, and then I wanted to start this church. So when I met Holly, I knew I would be in ministry, and right around the time we started dating I started this Bible study and I invited her to be a part of it. But I don’t think I really knew that she had the calling that she has now. Outside of this church, her realm of influence is much greater than mine, as far as ministry goes. I am often known as Holly’s Husband. [Laughs] HW: My dad’s job took us all over the world so I was out of the country most of my life. Even though I was raised in the church, it wasn’t until I was about twenty-one that Jesus became Lord. It took me a few steps to be able to call Him my Savior. And that happened when I was out here [in southern California]. I actually moved out here as an actress. I was hosting a talk show and then I did a bunch of commercials, and did a series, and a few films, and it was kind of in the middle of that when I met Philip. So it was interesting because I was trying to make decisions that honored God as an actress, so that meant turning down a bunch of things, and being careful about what I chose. In the midst of that I was trying to follow God and pay my bills. [Laughs] Then I met Philip and, when we fell in love, I knew our lives were going to be connected. But he never said, “ You need to be a certain way.” As far as ministry, he said, “Just be my wife and we’ll figure it all out.” So, for the first few years of the church, I just greeted people at the door as the happy, friendly face. I worked with the kids, I did everything I could to help him reach his dream, but I didn’t really think of it as our dream as much as it was just his dream. I helped him, but I was still working as an actress, and we were very grateful for that in the early years. PW: Because the church wasn’t bringing in much money at all, so we loved it when we would get residuals or something. We could eat another week! HW: And then, at some point for me, probably within the first five years, [the church] became mine, and I wanted to actually help more strategically. God wanted to teach people, and not just entertain them – which is fine – but actually be helping them. It then became more and more somerisenmagazine.com 37
thing that we did together. And then I would teach with the kids, I would teach membership classes, and we began to realize that I had a teaching gift. Eventually I was teaching on Sundays, and now, thirty years later, I travel and teach everywhere and write books, and people will say, “Did you see this as your future?” And really, no, no I didn’t. I just love God and I thought, “I’m going to be faithful with what is in my hand at this moment.” I think sometimes young people feel like they need to have the whole picture, and all that does is paralyze them from taking the next step. So just be faithful with whatever is in your hand – whether it’s a class in school, a Sunday school class that you’re teaching, a Bible study, a connect group, whatever it is that God has trusted you with, just be really good there. He’ll give you the next step. For me, that is always what it was: “Oh! This door opened. I think I’ll walk through there. Oh! Now this door opened!” I wasn’t pushing them down.
something in one chapter and then I’ll fix it in the next, and vice versa. My chapters typically have more exclamation marks and smiley faces. [Laughs] Its funny, [Philip] gets frustrated with my exaggerations, but he loves it when I exaggerate his strengths. And so we talk about how to fight, how to handle conflict, how to communicate, and we have a chapter on sex that we wrote together because we felt that was the best way to write it. Otherwise it’s alternating.
Live What They Preach
RM: There are alarming statistics when it comes to divorce. If someone is going through a particularly difficult time, Philip you wrote, The Marriage Makeover, which can help transform a relationship in ten days. What are a few keys that couples could put into practice today? PW: The Marriage Makeover is meant to refresh your attention to what makes a relationship awesome. Because when you are in love with each other and you are engaged, or somewhere around that time of a relationship, we know what to do. We are in love, and we say nice things, and we think, “I love this feeling! Let’s get married and keep it forever!” But you get married, and then life happens. You have children, or you have a job, or you lose a job, or you have financial problems or somebody gets sick and the priority of marriage begins to work its way down on the priority list. I think marriage only works when it is the priority. I’m not saying that you can fix every problem in ten days; that sounds like an infomercial. But I do know, and believe, that you can dramatically change the environment of the relationship, or the home, so that it becomes a platform for a safer opportunity to work on your relationship. If someone was unfaithful or someone has an addiction, it can create opportunities for healing. So these ten things just say, “Focus on this today. Focus on making your marriage a priority.” For instance, honor. I believe that behind every marriage problem, there is a problem with honor. Whether it’s a disagreement with how to manage finances, or you’re sexually frustrated, or you’re having a faith challenge, somebody feels dishonored or somebody is dishonoring the other with how they communicate. We try to work on that so the couple can talk about the issues – because if you feel safe, you will talk about the issues. If you think that when you bring something up, your spouse is going to say, “Oh, well that’s just your emotions,” then that’s not very honoring. Or it could be, “Oh, you’re just so stubborn.” You basically have to find a way to bring honor into the situation. I joke about it by saying, “Remember when you were going to marry this person and you presented them to your parents for the first time? You spun it so that only the best qualities were mentioned. Maybe move that way a little bit.”
I think sometimes young people feel like they need to have the whole picture, and all that does is paralyze them from taking the next step. ~Holly Wagner
RM: You’ve been married for nearly 30 years, and seeing couples flourish in their relationships is a passion that you help nourish through seminars, conferences and books. Your most recent book written together is titled Love Works. What does this mean and why do you think this is such a timely tool for couples? PW: The idea behind Love Works is that I feel like people have gotten discouraged about marriage, and maybe even disillusioned or cynical regarding relationships, so the norm is to go out and either sleep together after a few dates, or move in together to try it out, and, maybe never even get around to marriage because you hear heartbreaking marriage stories. You hear that fifty percent of Christian marriages end in divorce – which is not true by the way. But it’s those kinds of comments that cause you to say, “I don’t know if this is for me.” We know that marriage works. And we know that love works – God’s version of it. And God’s way is a way of blessing and joy. Every great relationship takes work. I like to say that it is not a life sentence of hard labor. It is working to obtain that joy and unity and passion, and to keep that going. And that is well worth the work. But even when we first started bumping heads, we would wonder whether we might have married the wrong person because we are so different, and I think a lot of people say, “I don’t know if this is going to work.” But if you’ve had conflicts, and you’re different, and you struggle, that means you’re normal. You’re not necessarily a candidate to call it off. So that is kind of the spirit behind Love Works. We are offering our input on dating, and choosing the right person and all of that. HW: The first part of the book is for the unmarried. He [Philip] actually has a portion of the book called “Red Flags,” which helps to recognize some red flags. Sometimes a young person will marry the potential, and that’s not what you’re supposed to do. Potential is awesome; we all have it! But what do you see in their life that might be a red flag? Sixty percent of our church is single, so we deal with unmarried people all the time and helping them to make wise choices in their relationships. In Love Works, we actually alternate chapters, so it’s a little bit of a “he said/she said” voice. He’ll say
The Word of the weapon t has given us matter wha you are fig which for me health, yo declare the t His Word.~Ho
God has given us one body, and He has trusted us with this body to fulfill His purpose on the earth. ~Holly Wagner
38 Risen Magazine
RM: Holly, part of your testimony is that you are a breast cancer survivor. Can you share a little bit about your story and then maybe both of you could give advice on how couples can face any type of health crisis within their family?
40 Risen Magazine
HW: I am nine years out now, and that’s awesome. Nobody wants to hear that diagnosis spoken in their lifetime and sadly there are only more and more. But for me, I am a natural fighter; I am not passive. The strength to that is when a situation like this presents itself, where I am dealing with a disease, I pull out every gun I have, the whole arsenal to achieve victory. We approached it spiritually. Philip put scriptures all over our home, so no matter where I turned, or whenever I opened a door, there was a scripture about healing. Ephesians 6 tells us that we are supposed to put the armor of God on, and never take it off. One of the things it talks about is the sword. There are two offensive weapons; the sword, which is the Word of God, and prayer. The Word of God is the weapon that God has given us, so no matter what fight you are fighting, which for me was my health, you can declare the truth of His Word. In Exodus, He tells me His name is Healer – that Jesus paid the price for my healing. I would just pull those scriptures out and put them everywhere and declare them and speak them over my life. And then I could approach it with everything I had. I’m a little bit of an alternative thinker, as far as medical issues are concerned, so I did a number of alternative treatments. I approached it from a point of prevention by saying, “How can I make this never come back, from a practical standpoint?” PW: We approached the issues spiritually, medically; nutritionally... we really put our focus in everything. And I remember coming home one day and all the cupboards had changed; all the tasty, good food was missing, and we had lots of green stuff everywhere, and vitamins and supplements. But I’ve actually learned to love it. There’s a huge benefit to it. That’s just life with Holly, when she’s ready to change, it happens immediately. HW: [Laughs] There’s no slow speed for me. I just want to encourage people. I’m not telling people to do exactly what I did as far as the nutrition, but just start doing something. It would be unwise for us to not take care of our bodies. God has given us one body, and He has trusted us with this body to fulfill His purpose on the earth. So, to the best of my ability, I’m going to make my body strong. And most people know the right things to do. Exercise, eat right and sleep. Really it’s not more complicated than that. And since society is not really helping us, we have to be pretty aggressive in what we are going to do. We just approached all three of those areas, and we worked together. It’s been a journey, and I’ve had to fight fear and navigate through people, weekly, who would come and say, “It’s great that you’re feeling good. You know, my aunt had cancer and then was cancer-free for twelve years, but she got it last year and she died.” I hear that kind of stuff all the time, so I have to apply the same principles and say, “No, remember what the Word of God says. Nahum 1:9. This is not coming on me a second time.” I just find the
Live What They Preach
sometimes eople feel like d to have the cture, and all s is paralyze m taking the p. ~Holly Wagner
given us one nd He has us with this o fulfill His on the earth.
verses and let faith be built in my heart until I have a peace about trusting God with my life. It’s not mine; it’s His. So I’m not going to live in fear. I’m just going to do what I can do to live my life full speed, with passion, and with a focus on helping other people. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of your own fight, you retreat inward, and I just don’t think we should do that very often. No matter what challenge or crisis you’re in, if you can take your eyes off yourself, you can always find somebody who is in a worse situation than you, so how can you help? Go sponsor a child. Go downtown and feed people. Do something to get your eyes off of your own situation.
The Word of God is the weapon that God has given us, so no matter what fight you are fighting, which for me was my health, you can declare the truth of His Word.~Holly Wagner
RM: Philip, you founded Generosity Water in 2008 which is a non-profit organization committed to bringing solutions to the clean water crisis. What made you want to take on another sector of ministry, this time globally? PW: I had read a statistic from UNICEF that, at the time, about one billion people on the planet do not have access to clean water. When I first heard that I thought, “Surely that’s not true.” But I researched it a bit and found out that legitimate sources were saying this, and then I thought, “That’s crazy!” In fact, unsanitary water is the number one killer; more than disease or war, because it leads to many diseases and it makes people vulnerable when they are dehydrated or drinking poor water. It’s especially a huge cause of the deaths of children. So I just thought about a billion people and said, “I can’t help all those people, but let’s help some.” I wanted to see what I could do. It started out in the church. I told them what I just told you and we decided for our first project, to help build a well in Africa. So we financed a couple well projects and I thought, “This is awesome!” With each one, you reach two or three hundred people, or even more depending on the situation. So we continued it. And then, my son [ Jordan] who has a real entrepreneurial gift came in to lead the project, since I wanted to keep my focus on the church, and then he took it to another level. When I handed the organization to him, I think we had funded twenty or twentyone wells through our church, and now we’ve funded more than six hundred in eighteen countries. RM: As we’ve seen, you two have very unique aspects of ministry based on your passions and talents. How can a couple embrace the areas where God has gifted them without making the other spouse feel alienated or overlycompetitive? PW: There are more and more couples pastoring together these days, so this is a conversation that a lot of people have and there is a tricky balance to it. But I think, just like our marriage, we each bring strengths to the team. So rather than her wanting me to do it her way or vice versa, we contribute personal strengths to it. And the bigger the church has gotten, and the more risenmagazine.com 41
Live What They Preach
I think sometimes young people feel like they need to have the whole picture, and all that does is paralyze them from taking the next step. ~Holly Wagner God has given us one body, and He has trusted us with this body to fulfill His purpose on the earth. ~Holly Wagner
complicated. We have had to have conversations and think out strategies together so that when we meet with people, we have a more unified voice. It’s not a science, it’s hard to tell people what they should do, but our goal is communication. HW: In the beginning of our marriage, like a lot of people’s marriages, we were like, “ Yay! This is awesome!” But then, over time, you start to try and change the other person. You forget that you were attracted to them because of their very differences. You would not have been attracted to that person if they were exactly like you. So then we waste time trying to make the other person act like us, think like us, write like us, and communicate like us. I think we did that, where I was trying to fix him and he was doing the same. And then, it seems that once you resolve one issue and you think, “ You 42 Risen Magazine
The Word of God is the weapon that God has given us, so no matter what fight you are fighting, which for me was my health, you can declare the truth of His Word.~Holly Wagner be you and I will be me,” another issue arises and you move backward. It’s a bit of a dance, trying to let the other person be who they are by respecting and honoring who they are, while still making sure you are both connected and following the same path. Over the years we have created lanes in which we would run and we tried to keep them separate, though we both had the same goals. PW: And what we mean by that is areas of responsibility in the ministry. We are always tweaking structure and allocating different responsibilities. HW: It’s tricky. A healthy church has a mother and a father, just like a healthy home – a male and female voice. But what makes us unique is that I speak and travel a lot, and have a lot of books, so my voice has really gotten out there, and Philip has never been threatened by my voice. And I think that that is true because he is so secure in who he is. At the end of the day, he recognizes my gifts, which are special to me. We see it that a win for me is still a win for the team. And a win for Philip is also a win for the team. And that takes work since, as human beings, we are all ego-driven, but at our core, that is what we believe. PW: And it relates back to both marriage and ministry because part of my goal is to help her reach her goals. I don’t want, at the end of her life, for her to say, “Because I was married to Philip, I didn’t get to reach all my dreams, but at least I had a pretty good life.” I want her to say, “Because I was married to him, I was able to achieve most of my dreams.” And I am confident that she feels the same way. So I celebrate her successes and I encourage her. And to be honest, as a man, I’ve had moments in the beginning where I felt like I had to work twice as hard to get half the results. Everything she does turns out amazing! There are questions that men would ask, and even women, about our careers compared to our partners, but many of those questions can be answered by the desire for one another to succeed.
â€‹(l-r) Andrea Salzburn & Felicia Durling
The Center 4 Life Change Center Offers a Different Approach of Guidance and Hope for Individuals and Families of Addiction Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photographer: Rob Springer
t started with a personal addiction and a passion to help others achieve healthy lives, with an ultimate goal of healing and full restoration. After education, training and running other programs Felicia Durling fulfilled her 15-year vision and founded The Center 4 Life Change. Couple Durling’s extensive background with that of Andrea Salzburn, a parent of sons that struggled with addiction who now overseas not only the Parent Program, but is the Clinical Coordinator as well, and The Center 4 Life Change is a powerful facility transforming both individuals and families. The community resource center offers on site drug and alcohol treatment, marriage and family counseling, parent support groups, education and homeless restoration. They can also help someone find qualified psychiatric evaluations, inpatient treatment and detox placement. Risen sat down with both Durling and Salzburn to learn more about their stories, how the brain works, warning signs for families and the much needed component of faith.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Temecula, California
Risen Magazine: Felicia, you founded The Center 4 Life Change, but first take us back to your upbringing and share why helping others conquer their addictions is a personal passion of yours? Felicia Durling: I think it first started back in high school when I started to recognize that I was truly suffering. I was severely depressed, suicidal, and just a broken girl. From the outside everything totally looked fine, I was ASB [Student Body] president, in homecoming court, I had great grades, was involved in the church and was even on the worship team, plus I was headed off to Azusa Pacific University, then transferring to Point Loma Nazarene University however, on the inside where all of this suffering was rooted, there were probably just a couple of teachers that knew I was literally hanging by a thread. I knew something wasn’t right and I didn’t exactly know how to conquer it. At the age of 14, I started drinking and no one really knew to what degree. I just used it to cope and to make it through the depression and all of that. Only God’s grace kept me afloat all those years. I really attribute that to a couple teachers at the Christian school I went to; they just took notice of me and would make sure I was up and running. When I went college, and then again at 19, I started to just kind of feel like something wasn’t right once again and I think the depression started to increase.
While I was at Point Loma, I was in art school, and I would be driving and would picture myself driving into a tree and I couldn’t get that out of my mind. I knew something wasn’t right and I knew other people around campus were not dealing with that kind of obsessive thought and wanting to escape. That’s when I got a referral to my first therapist. She charged me [a nominal fee] and I would go week after week after week and I pretty much just asked her if there was a chance I could not feel like I was going crazy. I’m sure she had a ton of diagnoses for me, but the bigger thing that she did was she gave me the hope that not only could God can heal me, but that He could give me strategies on how to make it really successfully. We brought Jesus back into my life in a really active way. I started to learn how to manage mental illness and addictive disorders in a way that I thought, “If I have this, everyone should have this. If I have the opportunity get this high quality help, [at such a nominal fee] then everyone should. No one should have to suffer like I did at 14 and 19, especially alone.” No one really knew what to do with me and there was a repetitive lie in my mind that something was really wrong with me and I was going crazy. I think the enemy was just attacking me constantly. RM: Where do you think the depression and suicidal thoughts stemmed from? risenmagazine.com 45
ally, family after family after family in my parent’s family, and their parent’s family, everyone was dealing with so much pain and no one knew how to manage it. It’s been generations of everyone just trying to stay afloat. I remember just recently my dad and I had lunch and he said to me, “Did you know that this is the first generation that’s not going to suffer like we all suffered for so long?” I kind of look at it like stopping a train. When you get the right care at the right time, it [the cycle] stops and now myself, and my children, don’t have to be suffering anymore. Ending the family story of suffering is totally possible. RM: Andrea, your passion for changing lives comes through personal experience as well, but from a different angle, as a parent. Walk us through how addiction had a stronghold on both of your sons and what that did to your family, and how you were able to take a destructive situation and find restoration. Andrea Salzburn: It was nothing I ever intended for my life – it’s actually the polar opposite. We had addiction in our family on both my husband’s side as well on my side. My husband and I actually worked hard to make sure that [addiction] wasn’t going to infiltrate our family, our kids, and our life. We felt like we did everything to create something much safer for our kids. I checked all the right boxes; I was the soccer mom, I was the room mom, my husband coached the football team, we were very involved, the kids went to Christian schools, we attended church – we did everything that we thought would create this perfect family. About the time my youngest son was 15, we stated to see behaviors in him that were very dangerous and risky. The harder we tried, the harder I prayed, the harder I hoped and wished it wasn’t heading to that [destructive] direction, it was. To say that the next couple of years were out of control would be an understatement, it just came so quickly, the behavior and the manifestation of the addictive disorder [now with both sons]. What once was this tight little family was now destroyed with anger. We were at each other all the time because John, my husband, and I, were working hard to contain things while our kids where pushing back; the harder we pushed, the harder they pushed back. Because of the intensity of it and the depression that set in as we were literally desperate to try to save our kids, coupled with knowing about addictions from our family history, we were fearful that we were going to lose our kids. By the time we got in front of Felicia [for help], my husband and I where literally grieving the death of our kids and they were still very much alive. We had just gotten to a place where we realized our children, that we worked so hard to raise the best we could, and poured our heart and soul into, were using something as dangerous as heroine. Well, you just can’t wrap
“When your buddy hands you the first drink remember you come from a family that has struggled with this.” -Andrea Salzburn FD: I think sometimes trauma can create anxiety disorder and depression and that combination of the two typically leads to some kind of substance use. I was literally using it to cope, to stay alive and to make it. Trauma was present for me and there were things in my life that definitely contributed to this combination. It was God’s grace helping me find the right kind of care. RM: Because you grew up in a Christian home and went to private school, it doesn’t mean you are exempt from challenges or in this case a lot of pain. How did your family respond to your behavior? FD: I think in some way we [the whole family] were all suffering and I think all of us were trying to stay afloat. We all loved the Lord, but there was just brokenness and I think that is such a common thing – especially in the Christian world. There are families that love Jesus very much and they are suffering because they don’t know how to manage pain. I think generation46 Risen Magazine
(l-r) The Center 4 Life Change Staff: Ricky Sanchez, Melissa Kirk, Felicia Durling & Andrea Salzburn
your brain around that. We went in [to get help] with the intention of, “Tell us how to fix our kids?” And very quickly it became, “Tell me how I can want to live again, because I don’t want to anymore.” I used to say, just to my husband, “I’m not going to take my own life, but if a bus came in my direction I wouldn’t jump away.” That’s the level of grief we were at. By the time we sat with Felicia we had truly become convinced that we needed to turn away from our kids, that we needed to shut them out, and let them go. But I couldn’t wrap my brain fully around the idea of telling my kid, “ You are out of my life.” So the first time I sat with Felicia I don’t think I said three words the whole time. I just sat and cried while my husband did most of the talking. All I could eek out was something about all I wanted was my kids back. And she said, “ You can still have your kids.” And I thought, “Tell me how. How can I keep my kids, because everyone else is telling me I can’t? They are lying, cheating, and stealing from us.” I’m not even talking about what they are doing to other people, I’m their mom and they are lying to me and they are talking to me in a way I would never expect my kids to talk to me. Yet Felicia began to convince me over time that there are strategies, there are ways to keep my kids, keep their heart, and be able to love my kids while also retaining some semblance of myself. She convinced us we can have hope again and that’s where it all started to turn. RM: At this point did just the two of you go to this counseling? Did your kids know that you were seeking help based on the situation? AS: Yes and our kids did not know. We were always trying to find outside help so they were used to that, but this was a little different. My youngest son said to me the other day, “I could remember how all of sudden you started to act different, and you were talking differently.” It was a whole different kind of mindset and approach to the entire thing. Jesus has always been an integral part of my life but something happened and now as I counsel parents, I see it all the time, where people have spent their entire life as Christians and they find themselves saying, “I don’t
know that I have faith anymore.” Addiction will rob you of everything, including faith. Felicia reminded us in a subtle way that God is not to blame. And we began to intercede with our kids under a whole different mindset – it was less about action with them and more about action with us. The idea that we could actually separate from our kids, was a new concept. RM: When did your boys realize their addiction was out of control, or did they ever get to that point? AS: It’s interesting because maybe that’s why it affected me profoundly. My little brother struggled and actually lost his battle to addiction. So I was so affected by it, and when I look back I can see I was living in fear of that [happening to my sons]. I’d always educated my kids on addiction and told them how evil can show up as the face of your friends and I use to say, “When your buddy hands you the first drink remember you come from a family that has struggled with this.” So it wasn’t that they weren’t educated, but as far as answering about when they realized, I would say they didn’t really realize the depth of it until both of them got clean. FD: I would also add that there is new education. One thing that really sets The Center 4 Life Change apart from others is the clinical side of care. When parents get the understanding of what’s actually happening in the neuron transmitters in the brain, it helps parents understand how to help their kid get better. So it’s not about a kid being bad, it is about a kid being sick. And then it’s important to have the right strategies to get them better. That approach right there is the game changer. All of a sudden John and Andrea understand that their kids are actually really sick. And in order to get their kids better, here is what mom and dad need to do. RM: How would you advise parents to approach their child if they are worried or suspect an issue developing? FD: I think it’s important that a family gets the right coaching. Parents need coaching to understand how to manage their kid’s abuse and dependency. This is now the area that Andrea oversees at the center. We get calls constantly from moms and dads that say, “I found Norco in my kid’s bedroom,” risenmagazine.com 47
or “My kid is smoking weed every day and he is convincing me he should be smoking weed because it’s actually helping with his anxiety.” There is clinical and medical support to help guide parents through that. There are intervention strategies. Because Andrea felt a calling on her life to help other moms and dads that are suffering, she will sit with parents, day after day and teach them strategy, and how to keep their kid’s heart, and have boundaries, and a safe home. Sometimes we’re on the phone daily, helping to coach that parent through this because we are trying to avoid tragedy. Statistically, two-thirds of people with addictive disorders will struggle with it chronically and we teach the parent how to manage a relapse. That’s a really tough statistic. RM: Talk to me more about The Center 4 Life Change. It opened its doors in 2012, but the vision, education, and experience started a decade before that. Andrea became a part after working with you in her own family and then feeling a calling to help other moms and dads. What is the mission and hope for the center? FD: When I got recovery, at 19 years old, I started running free community groups for about ten years. My poor husband would watch our kids from the back room [in our home] and I would have community group. Then a decade later someone said, “ You know you can do this as a job.” My husband was like, “ Yay!” I was actually in Oregon when I got the first taste of this world. I
volunteered at a men’s crisis center and that was a life changer. It was an organization called, The Shepherd House, in Bend. I just volunteered for a few weeks and then all out of sudden I was program director. It [the program] was for 32 men coming out of Pendleton [correctional institution in Oregon] as high felons and I loved every minute of that. We created a drug and alcohol program and at that point I started to get certified. I thought, “This is the real deal. There is something going on here, these are beautiful people who have committed a high-rate crime, so what happened? Why the alcohol? Why the drugs?” I started the certification and from there went into managed care and was the clinical director for about 20 staff members and more than 100 patients, yet through all of that I had this life goal, a 15-year vision of having a place that people could go to as a resource center. That’s where The Center 4 Life Change was officially born. I wanted a place where families can come in and get that first touch of Jesus, without even knowing it was Jesus. Every call, every person, we want them to experience Jesus mixed with that clinical counseling background. RM: You talk about how the brain gets “hijacked” when someone has an addictive disorder. What does this mean and what effects do drugs actually have on how the brain functions and ultimately a person’s behavior? FD: More than anyone can imagine. What we teach clients and families coming in is about the front and the back part of the brain. It’s much more
Taking it One Day at a Time Angie Sousa is a mother of three who has been wrestling with a heroin and meth addiction for more than half her life. At 38 years old, she now remains clean and praises God for it. Having been through numerous in-patient facilities, it wasn’t until she entered the Outpatient Treatment Program at The Center 4 Life Change that she was finally able to get sober. Since graduation she is in an aftercare program along with continued sober coaching, therapy, and has a sponsor. Sousa talked with Risen about her new beginning.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Addiction had been part of your life for so long. How did it start and how was it impacting the way you lived? Angie Sousa: It began by just experimenting. I didn’t really get on a dayto-day addiction until my late twenties. There was underlying PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], which was from being molested for four years of my life when I was really young. I was also gang-raped at 21 years old. I think not dealing with that in a psychological way and getting help, is why I ended up with a dependency issue. I have done probably ten different in-patient rehabs. Felicia’s [The Center 4 Life Change program] was outpatient and it was more sympathetic towards the person. It’s more loving and kind towards the patient, versus the idea of, you are a bad person and you need to learn to be a good person. This was more about loving yourself into recovery. RM: You had been through 10 different in-patient facilities. What was it about The Center 4 Life Change’s program that actually helped you to become sober? AS: I think the fact that I had choice and freedom in the matter. All the other programs are locked down and you have to follow their rules and 48 Risen Magazine
their schedule. The Center 4 Life Change is three days a week for a couple hours each time and it’s your choice to go; you have to get yourself there. I don’t really know how to explain it other than it was my choice and with the others I didn’t feel like I had a choice in anything. RM: How has a relationship with God changed the way you view yourself and the world? AS: I am a Christian and I have always been a Christian, which is why I think I haven’t lost hope in recovery. I was born with knowing there is something better. So I’ve seen the ugly and I just want to get to the good. RM: What has been the biggest change that you have seen within yourself through the recovery process? AS: Learning to take life a day at a time. A lot of stress and depression happens when you speculate and look further out. RM: What advice would you give to someone under the stronghold of an addiction? AS: It’s never too late, don’t give up, and love yourself.
complicated than that, but it’s a way to explain it to people so they can understand. The front part of the brain is where the logical and rational ideas form – I care about God, I care about my family, if I see a red traffic light it means stop – all the basics. And the back part of the brain is where God created all pleasure and good stuff. But it is also the part of the brain that 7-10 percent of people, and 25 percent if you have a parent who is an addict, will find themselves. You throw a controlled substance in the back part of the brain and all of sudden the wrong part of the brain is now running the show. Just that simple explanation and most of the time our clients say, “Oh, so I don’t have to sit in guilty shame and I can actually retrain my brain to think differently.” There is neurotransmitter in the back part of the brain that has ended messages. RM: Your treatment involves clinical care and counseling so how does faith factor into recovery and ultimately become a key to full healing? FD: I’m limited. I can work on changing my thinking, I can come to treatment, I can get a sponsor, I can go to meetings, I can do all my part, but at the end of the day I always say, “I’m just a girl so I can do my part, but I really need God to step in, in a very supernatural way to make this exponential.” It is similar to the loaves and fishes story in the Bible; the Lord can take what I have and provide total healing. We want every client totally healed and that is a unique strategy in the clinical world of drug and alcohol treatment. So until Jesus comes in and completely heals the addiction in every client, then these strategies we can put into place keep us going healthy and strong.
“This is the real deal. There is something going on here, these are beautiful people who have committed a high-rate crime, so what happened? Why the alcohol? Why the drugs?” -Felicia Durling
RM: How are faith and the God-factor introduced to the patients that don’t have any background, or interest, in God and His love? FD: We have clients coming in that have never been in treatment before, and clients that have spent over $300 thousand dollars on treatment, so the level definitely ranges. Some clients are ready to bring the faith component in and some have been walking with such guilt and shame that they need God to stay way over there because they are not even ready to face Him yet. We really try to make sure the individual care for the client is matched. Some of our clients want us to pray over them every day, and other clients are going to need a few months. We have this model of recovery where we say we don’t go head on, we go all the way around and we slowly come in. We just start saying, “I know you don’t want me to mention God, but I’m on my face for you [praying] before I go to bed.” They don’t really know what to do with that sometimes. But it’s contagious. Our clients always say, “I wish we could come more days and stay
more, because there is an atmosphere of the unconditional love of God in the building.” All of sudden clients start saying, “I prayed yesterday and I haven’t prayed in more than five years.” We will write that in their treatment plan. We have a spirituality part in our treatment plan. It is part of our mission to work closely with the faith-based community so they know we are here for them; just getting those partnerships together. Our heart is to be the place where churches that are filled with families who need help can refer them to The Center 4 Life Change. risenmagazine.com 49
Pastor Rudy Gonzalez
How Simple Acts of Courage are Changing the Lives of Women in Bondage Across the Nation “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25:40 Writer: Shelley Barski
n as little as two years, SERT Ministries has brought light to a world cloaked in darkness. An acronym for “Search, Evangelize, Rescue, Train,” members of SERT are taking a stand for an issue that has become one of the largest viruses in modern day society. The business of human trafficking and prostitution is a thriving one. A drug can only be sold once, but a human can be sold over and over again. Human trafficking is the fastest growing organized crime business in the world, generating about $32 billion annually. Many go missing, either kidnapped or brainwashed into thinking this is the only way to survive. Pastor Rudy Gonzalez officially founded SERT Ministries in Northern California in 2012, but he had been ministering to “the least of these” for years on the streets of places like Tijuana and Skid Row. Gonzalez grew up in a Catholic Christian household and served in the Marine Corps after high school. He spent his time in combat as a part of a special operations team in reconnaissance missions. After he left the Marine Corps, he married his high school sweetheart and became a policeman, but later, God began to call him into ministry. “I never stopped believing in God but I got angry with him because of all the stuff I saw as a cop,” he said. “I went to church and the pastor was talking about prostitution and that some of these prostitutes were as young as 4-years-old. I was angry and asked, ‘Why does this happen God?’ I heard the voice of the Lord tell me plain and clear, ‘You are my hands and feet, why do you let this happen?’ I was really convicted, and that’s when I decided to go on my first trip to Cambodia to help an orphanage there.” Gonzales’ first assignment in his newfound calling happened when the parents of a missing girl in Davis, CA, posted on Facebook, asking if anyone with experience could help look for her. They thought she had been involved with sex trafficking and he knew he needed to help this family. He and his team found the girl after only two hours of searching in a targeted neighborhood, but they were too late. She had taken her life the day she went missing. The tragedy was in the news and caught the eye of other girls who were in bondage. Many began contacting SERT ministries wanting to be rescued. Gonzales didn’t want any more stories to end in
tragedy and was determined to press on and help save these women. “We knew we needed to have good accountability to do this ministry. There are a lot of people that have a ‘hero syndrome’ and want to combat sex trafficking but do it for the attention. We put an accountability board in place to keep track of everything we were doing.” One thing the SERT team does during their weekly outreach is call girls who are prostituting online. [On unnamed websites], “you can buy a couch or buy a teenage girl,” explains Gonzales. “We had our team of girls call the prostitutes and tell them the gospel. This was an area I didn’t see anyone else touching and it was working. We call these girls and tell them that we love them. Then we tell them that they need Jesus and introduce them to Him.” If the girls want to know more about how Jesus can change their lives, they are invited to meet a female team member for coffee if it’s safe to do so. Team members try to get the girls to be an equal participant in their rescue. The girls can be in bondage in many different ways. Some of them are physically bound with ropes, some are chemically bound with drugs and some have mental restraints through force or fear. “They will say, ‘I do this because he tells me he loves me,” Gonzalez explains. SERT offers the girls a true way out. “It’s only with Jesus that they can win,” he says. “We have seen girls who are addicted to heroine get delivered on the spot when we prayed for them. The chains were broken and there is a freedom you can see in their eyes. It’s not about a program. None of our girls have gone back to the lifestyle, whereas many girls, who try to get out without Jesus, end up returning to the lifestyle.” SERT works with law enforcement and federal agencies on many cases of missing persons. Law enforcement welcomes working with SERT because they are able to get the intel that they need to be able to move on cases. Instead of being bound by so many restrictions whether it be budget or having to run up the chain of command, SERT teams can go straight to the scene and take action. Gonzales and his team visit local churches across the U.S. and hold awareness trainings with the congregations to teach them how to combat risenmagazine.com 51
the issues in their neighborhoods. They do unconventional warfare and get leads from people in ministry that do online intelligence gathering. SERT teaches them how to find out where the hotspots are; the places that are trending where law enforcement is not being effective. They then help with a strategy for combat. They teach the men how to do a “John Sting” undercover profile, posing to be a young prostitute and then setting up an operation at a motel or parking lot to catch the bad guys and share the gospel with them. Law enforcement and Special Forces teams get involved in the more elaborate undercover operations. “One town we visited had a population of 2,600 people. When I got to the church to speak, I was greeted by a lady who said, ‘Thank you for coming, but we do not have a sin problem in this town.’ We did a John Sting and posted a decoy as a teenage girl prostitute within their town’s boundaries. Within a few hours, we had over 450 responses for that one teenager. That was over 25 percent of the male population in that town! These guys needed Jesus. So we taught the church how to do more John Stings and witness to these men.” Each SERT ministry team is different. There are husband and wife teams, teams of all college-aged men or women and teams of middle-aged women. Only men can minister to men and women can minister to women, so there is no opportunity for temptation that could potentially derail the mission. Gonzalez believes that one of the biggest obstacles that can keep SERT teams from saving these girls is their pride. Many of the girls believe that if they are rescued they are going to face judgment from family and friends. “I think all of us deal with pride. Our biggest obstacle can be ourselves,” he said. “But if we can believe that Jesus can really bring us out of the situation we are in, bridges are built, chains are broken and cool things can happen!” And cool things do happen. Two years ago, Gonzales had a case in
Central America where he and his team were able to work with law enforcement and purchase the freedom of 19 girls. Five men who were a part of the trafficking cartel were caught and arrested. The girls were placed in a six-month program where they learned life and career skills so they could get jobs and support themselves. Many of these 13 and 14-yearolds had children, so they were also taught how to raise them and be good mothers. At the end of the program they graduated and found jobs with the placement services provided. Gonzales firmly believes that God is capable of working all things together for good, and success stories like these are the proof. The problem of sex trafficking may be of Goliath proportions, but he keeps himself motivated with the piece that God has placed in his hand. “I look at what’s before me and say, ‘what can the Lord use me to do today? How can I make the problem smaller?’ The ones that are right before us are our ministry. I can’t accomplish this on my own, but Jesus can do amazing things. I just need to get out of the way.” Gonzales stresses that rescuing someone doesn’t have to be complicated. His 16-year-old daughter accompanied him on a mission and helped rescue a girl who had been kidnapped and sold into prostitution. The girl was then reunited with her father that night. “It’s really simple. Just go out and seek the lost and broken,” says Gonzalez. “If we all sought the lost, we would see cities changed.”
“But if we can believe that Jesus can really bring us out of the situation we are in, bridges are built, chains are broken and cool things can happen!”
52 Risen Magazine
To find out more about SERT Ministries, visit www.sertministries.com
1 Source: UN News http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=22009#.VDtiMueA0fo
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(l-r) Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner (holding baby played by twins: Elise Vargas & Zoey Vargas), Kerris Dorsey, & Ed Oxenbould 54 Risen Magazine
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY JENNIFER GARNER & STEVE CARELL Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photor: Courtesy of Walt Desney Pictures
(l-r) Jennifer Garner & Steve Carell
Life doesn’t always go as planned… and some days you just want to press the restart button and begin fresh. In 1972 author Judith Viorst wrote a children’s book titled, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It was a huge hit as the themes resonated with families. Now some forty years later Walt Disney has made a feature film with the same name, only this time, Alexander isn’t the only one having bad things happen to him, the entire family is finding themselves living their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner star as the parents and they talked with Risen about parenting, seeing the silver lining, and their worst days.
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Interviewed for Risen Magazine in Los Angeles, California
Risen Magazine: Both of you have children, what is a piece of advice you could pass on to a new parent?
Jennifer Garner: You are just in the stage you are in… and when you are a new mom, you are a new mom. And even if there is part of you that is aware, “I’m acting a little bit crazy.” It’s okay. Don’t judge yourself. You won’t stay that way. Steve Carell: Everyone said, “Read this book…” and “It’s going to be this way…” and it’s always different than people tell you it’s going to be because it’s your personal experience – and, it will be unique to you and your life, and your baby. It’s going to be different than you expect or anyone prepares you for.
RM: Since this was first a beloved children’s book, and now a movie, how do you think it will resonate with families? Steve Carell: I’ve heard this film described as a throwback to the kind of films we grew up watching. They don’t seem to be making as much live-action, family movies these days. We’ll see if it’s a classic – but I think it’s modeled after classics. It’s a movie that I really think families will relate to, and it’s very honest.
RM: How do you handle rough days?
Jennifer Garner: I think that really no matter what happens in your day if you can come through it as a family you will be okay. And you will get to the other side if you can have a little bit of a sense of humor about it and just have each other’s backs.
RM: Tell me about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that you have had.
Jennifer Garner: Not that long ago I had the kids in the car ready to go to school and I was driving out of the driveway and I scraped my husband’s whole side of the car with my side of the car and ruined two cars in five seconds. That was an Alexanderesque moment. Steve Carell: (Sarcastically) I actually scraped Ben Affleck’s car as well. That was my worst day. He got so mad.
RM: Are you both able to see the silver living in situations, or do you get frustrated at first and think, “We’ll work through it.”? Jennifer Garner: I’m by nature probably an optimist, but I definitely allow myself those moments where there is no silver lining and things are just a bummer for a minute.
(c) 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved. 56 Risen Magazine
Matthew McConaughey Writer: Kelli Gillespie
It’s been quite a year for Matthew McConaughey. He won his first Best Actor Academy Award in March, starred in the hit HBO series True Detective and currently plays the lead in the Christopher Nolan-directed film, Interstellar. This sci-fi film features a team of space travelers who explore a newly discovered wormhole in the hopes of finding a habitable planet in another galaxy. Besides transcending the normal limits of space and time, the film is very much about hope and love, centering on a father’s relationship with his children. McConaughey is personally a father of three and talks with Risen about how fatherhood has changed his decision making, the opportunities within his career, and the importance of hope
Interviewed for Risen Magazine in Los Angeles, California
Risen Magazine: Your character Cooper feels he has been called for such a time as this and has been given opportunities to step into what he is passionate about. In what ways in your own career how have you seen that reflected? Matthew McConaughey: I have a career I love and I am getting to live out my dreams – they are precious to me, and the things I get to do are precious to me. They also take me around the globe to different places. Cooper didn’t have the opportunity to say, “I want to bring my family along.” Thankfully I do. But if that was taken away and it became – on a much less extreme level than this [Interstellar space travel] – where I had to go away from three months but the family couldn’t come, that would be very hard. And that is the nut of the question, and the common denominator of the movie that everyone can relate to, there are certain goodbyes; some of them are for shorter times, some are for longer times and none of them are guaranteed.
RM: Speaking of family, how have you seen your kids change your life or the way you make decisions? MM: Well a parent makes a decision for a collective now. Every decision I make even if they [my kids] are not involved literally, they are involved. They are involved in even my own personal decisions and I take them into account. I have to think down the line further. I have to think more than, “Am I going to be okay?” There are a lot of things where I think, “I’ll be fine. But wait a minute, what about the ones that don’t know better, or don’t know how to handle that situation?” So they are always in all of my decisions. RM: So much of the film is galaxy hopping and wormholes and rooted in science, but it also bring us to the importance of having hope, and how love affects what we do, and faith. How did these themes stand out to you as you were preparing for this role? MM: I think that comes out of the basis that this film is about family. We know love, commitment, faith – these things have a measurable effect on our life and what we do, or what we have
done. We don’t know how to measure it. In some ways I think that is sort of the mystery and practical pursuit of science. Our brains and our emotions, and our spirits aren’t really like computers. It’s not a mathematical equation that you can go, Ah, if… then… And that is why I think the human element will always be needed and necessary, especially in a world where we have computers that land planes and navigate – you still need human intuition and improvisation, human will to make decisions at a certain time because each moment is a little bit different. RM: How did winning the Oscar this year for Best Actor change your opportunities or your career? MM: One thing I had talked with Chris [director Christopher Nolan] about was being obsessed… and to approach the job like it’s the last one, or approach it like it is the only one. Probably with respect to what has happened to me over the last couple years I have more of an obsession even over what I am doing at this moment. This could be the last one – I hope it’s not – but it could be. RM: How did working on this film and the themes change your perspective on space exploration and whether it’s critical to humanity? MM: It was something I didn’t consider as much in the vernacular of thinking in that as we evolve is the new frontier out there, and if it is, why? I just didn’t consider it or think about it that much. One of the things I got from this film is that mankind’s expectations have to be greater than ourselves. The further out there we go, the more we find out and learn it is about you and me, right here. It’s much more of a tangible idea, and an attainable thought. I am in no way an expert on it but I can have conversations about it now that I couldn’t have had a year before getting on this film. But it’s now a much more four-dimensional outlook on where we are going and which way to look for what that new frontier is. risenmagazine.com 57
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Writer: Charlie Lapastora
“My God’s not dead. He’s surely alive. He’s living on the inside roaring like a lion…” These lyrics from the band, Newsboys, have reached millions around the world. When the single, “God’s Not Dead (Like A Lion),” was first released in 2011, it was a #1 radio hit on the Billboard AC Monitored chart. Since then it has been the top-selling track from Newsboys’ God’s Not Dead album, but it was the popularity of the feature film, God’s Not Dead, that was released this past Spring (2014), in which the Newsboys perform their hit song, that pushed the single over the 500,000 sales mark certifying it GOLD by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The movie made more than $60 million dollars at the box office, sparking much talk worldwide about the crucial message of whether or not God exists – especially in classrooms where students find themselves constantly defending their faith. Founded in 1985, the Newsboys have remained a constant in the Christian pop rock genre by making adaptions along the way – including its band members. With former DC Talk member Michael Tait now as their lead singer, you can find Duncan Phillips on drums, Jeff Frankenstein on the keyboard, and Jody Davis on the guitar. Risen caught up with Tait and Phillips at a recent concert to talk success, coming to know Christ, and some much-needed advice for all.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Sandusky, Ohio
Risen Magazine: You released the song, God’s Not Dead, a few years ago and then this year it was used in a movie with the same name. How did this happen and what are your thoughts of this additional round of success? Michael Tait: We never knew this was going to happen, of course, but what’s crazy is the album came out and did fairly well. The song kind of got bigger and bigger and we ended up at number one. Then we released a new record called Restart, last year, and God’s Not Dead blew up like triple big—the movie, the single. So all that together has made our God’s Not Dead experience over the top. It’s out of control. It’s crazy – never saw it coming. The biggest [hit] since Jesus Freak, for me, in [my days with] DC Talk, and now [God’s Not Dead] is bigger than that! RM: What kind of impact do you hope the message has for college students? Duncan Phillips: It was a subject that most people could relate to and they had dealt with, and even in high school these days, kids are dealing with this [pushback that God is not real]. And I think that’s one of the reasons it was so strong and I think that to actually get to see the scenario work out positively, it was just a very powerful point of moment in the movie and of course in people’s live to say, “Okay, well maybe I can give a good account of my faith.” I think there are so many Christians out there that are just not schooled in their faith. And I think what this movie is going to do, is that it is actually going to jolt this generation, to hopefully say, “Well, maybe I should dig a little deeper so I can give account for my faith.” RM: What kind of encouragement can you give to people when it comes to living out genuine, authentic faith while also having the ability to give people grace? DP: That is a deep question. MT: I’ve been haunted by the saying, what does that verse in the Bible say about to whom much is given much is required… and as believers [in Jesus Christ] if we talk that talk, we have to walk that walk, we’re commanded to.
It’s a commitment as believers. Not to say that we are not going to mess up and fall, or even fail, because we can and do, we are human. We are forgiven, but not perfect. We try our best and I’d say [it’s important] to keep our nose in the Word [Bible] and listen to the right people, and do the right thing and let [yourself trust] God. RM: How to you view the music industry? Do you feel it was your specific calling and do you feel responsible to share Christ through your music? DP: I think we kind of fell into it. It was like one of those things where, as a young kid, I didn’t necessarily have this mission that I wanted to save the world. But I was a Christian, and I play music – I love playing music – so it was just a very natural thing to sing about my faith. As we go on, God can get hold of that [passion], like He has with this band, and He has done some incredible, wonderful things. I think what all of us are called to do, is do what we do, the best that we can. I can’t save anyone; I don’t have that power. But what I can do is be the best drummer I can possibly be. That’s all we’re called to do; we are just conduits. We have plans and missions, but our ways are not His ways, and a lot of times our plans don’t line up with His or vice versa. RM: The words, “God’s Not Dead” are so powerful, when you wake up each morning, is it this message that keeps you going each day? How did you come to know the Lord? DP: Absolutely. It goes deep for us. We’ve been doing this for a long time and I think, as Jeff [Franklin, our keyboardist] has mentioned in the past, I think back when you were a young teenager it’s all about the art, creating your art and making records that were artistically valid in your mind. But I think as you get a little older, and get married and start having your own children, you absolutely still want to make great art, but I think it goes deeper. Especially for us now, realizing that it is a fallen and broken world. We do have young children that are very impressionable and we see this generation, for the most part, going to hell-in-a-hand-basket, so to speak. It scares me risenmagazine.com 61
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(l-r) Newsboys: Jody Davis, Jeff Frankenstein, Duncan Phillips & Michael Tait
and it concerns me. And I think our mission now is probably to show the other side of the coin. There are so many voices out there screaming the opposite to what we believe and, not to get weird about it or odd about it but just to say, “Hey, there is another option over here… this is the option we’ve found that works for us. And, isn’t it worth just ten minutes of your life to get down on your knees and say, ‘God, I don’t know if you’re there or not but if you are, please reveal yourself to me. I’ve got to know.’” And that’s what I did. I was brought up in a Christian home, I got to about 19 years old and I thought “Man, I don’t know if this is real or whether it was just B.S.” I didn’t know. MT: It was just a club for me. I had a great youth group; it was a social club, we all hung out. But what I did took ten minutes and I got down on my knees [and said], “God, I don’t know if you’re there, I don’t know if I’m talking to you anymore. But, man if you are there, please reveal yourself to me.” And He did. He really did. RM: Michael, you have been in the industry for awhile – from your time with the band DC Talk to now with Newsboys – how has music shaped you into the man you are today? MT: Music has shaped me, or maybe I should say how God allowed music to shape me. Obviously music is a very powerful tool. It speaks to deepest
part of a kid’s heart through their headphones. And we know this. RM: If the world were to end tomorrow, what is one piece of advice you’d give to others? MT: To find the peace that surpasses all understanding in your heart… which is having Christ in your heart. That’s why we do it. We’re tired, we’re worn out, but God is all merciful, powerful, and gracious. And stay the course, stay the course, stay the course. The enemy is going to come along, he’s going to beat you up. You are going to be tired sometimes, you are going to get moody… it’s a part of life. But stay the course. These little things don’t matter. Let the little things go and stay the course. DP: I think for me, just like I was mentioning earlier, seek Him [God] out for yourself. Don’t just believe in God because your parents do, or you had a great youth group, or you had a great church, because ultimately it’s a relationship between you and your creator. Your parents can’t get you into Heaven because of their relationship. It’s got to be you. Just take a few moments in your life, that’s all it takes. Get real, just for a moment. Put the iPhone down [laughs]… Just get real for a moment. Just ask, “God, are you there? Please. I’ve got to know.” And He will [answer], man. risenmagazine.com 63
BookList Yuletide Ice Cube Fair Written by:
VeggieTales is one of the most recognized brands in America with moms and dads of preschoolers. Now these famous vegetables teach that Jesus is the reason for the season in their festive book that shows kids the real meaning of Christmas. It’s that wonderful time of year again – the Yuletide Ice Cube Fair! The greatest part of all the festivities and excitement is the ice cube-carving contest. Each veggie is trying to outdo the other in an effort to win the grand prize. The smallest of all the entries is a carving done by Junior Asparagus – a tiny stable with a shepherd on one knee. Kids will discover it’s not what’s grand or bigger that’s most important on Christmas – it’s Jesus!
Blessed are the Peacemakers Written by:
Husband and wife team, Stan and Jan Berenstain, introduced the first Berenstain Bear books in 1962. More than five decades later with over 120 books in print and close to 260 million copies sold, their son Mike is continuing the legacy with latest book, Blessed are the Peacemakers. Whether it’s an argument between siblings or teasing on the school playground, young readers have experience with conflict, and understanding the concept of peace can be difficult for young children. Using Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” Brother and Sister teach their friends and young readers, too, about the eternal value of making and keeping peace.
Love Letters from God Written by:
What child doesn’t love to receive mail? What if that child could receive, open and read his or her own personal mail from God? Written for children ages four to eight, Love Letters from God includes 18 of the most popular Bible stories – nine from the Old Testament and nine from the New Testament. Following each story the child will find his or her own letter from God. Kids will love the excitement of opening letters and parents will love how each letter elaborates on the Bible story being told. At the end of the book there is an invitation for the children to write their own letter to God. 64 Risen Magazine
The Legend of St. Nicholas Written by:
Dandi Daley Mackall
A young boy named Nick enters a shop with his father to buy Christmas presents for the family and wonders why it is, “so much easier to think about getting gifts than giving them.” He is curious when he overhears Santa telling a story of a young boy with his same name, Nicholas, and decides to stay and hear the story unfold. The young boy in Santa’s story lives a life of luxury and riches, yet he cannot help to notice children less fortunate than him. Moved by the plight of the poor and needy, Nicholas decides to spend his life secretly giving gifts to all the poor on Christmas Eve to remind people of the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ.
How to Survive Middle School and Monster Bots Written by:
In the sequel to How to Make Friends and Monsters, the middle school genius, Howard Boward, is back with another monsterific adventure. In How to Survive Middle School and Monster Bots, Howard enters a whole new realm of trouble when he sets out to beat his archrival in a prestige science contest – but when he accidently creates an ever-expanding horde of robot monsters, Howard faces not only losing the competition, but also his closest friends. This offers middle grade readers personal lessons and the importance of friendships.
Dare U 2 Open This Book & Just Sayin’ Written by:
Carol McAdams Moore
In this technologically driven, fast-paced world, two 90-day devotionals are proving to be anything but typical. Dare U 2 Open This Book and Just Sayin’ invite tween guys, and girls respectively, to unplug and discover the path to following Christ, using their own creativity in books designed to make devotion time fun. Each book includes real life topics, doodles, journal prompts, lists, puzzles, fill-in-the-blank prayers, and other unique activities meant to challenge tweens to think about topics from a scriptural perspective and see the Bible’s relevancy to their contemporary lives. risenmagazine.com 65
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Nik Wallenda, Newsboys, Dr. James Dobson, Prolific Athletes, and more