Being Faithful with a Multitude of Small Things: An Interview with Josh Kelley

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Today we have the pleasure of interviewing our author of the month, Josh Kelley. Josh is the author of Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow Jesus and has been a pastor for 15 years. Originally from northwest Washington, he is currently on a year-long, cross country speaking tour, joined by his wife, Marilyn, and their two daughters.

Josh has graciously offered to give away Radically Normal for free when you sign up to receive Vyrso’s daily deal email alerts! With Vyrso’s daily deals, you can get a new 24-hour deal through November 27. Enter your email address on the Radically Normal product page and you’ll receive your free ebook in an email and daily deal alerts through November 27.

 

Could you provide a little background for us on your story?

The backdrop for Radically Normal was the year and a half I spent as a bi-vocational pastor/Starbucks barista. As challenging as that time was, it really helped me see things through the eyes of my congregation. Pastors can easily forget what it’s like to be a Christian in the midst of everyday life, when you are not being paid to study the Bible and pray!

 

Tell us about the inspiration behind Radically Normal.

Radically Normal is basically the book I wish I had when I was younger. I worked very hard to be a good Christian (which is a good thing) but I never felt like I was going far enough. If giving 10% was good, was 20% better? Was 100% the gold standard? I also struggled to understand why the people who looked and sounded the most radical were the ones I couldn’t stand being with, and why the Christians I really enjoyed were pretty normal. Radically Normal is about 50% my stories and 50% guidebook to loving Jesus without being a religious nut.

 

What’s one of your favorite Scriptures that encourages people to live ordinary lives as they follow Jesus?

“Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him” (1 Corinthians 7:20 NIV).  C. S. Lewis put it this way:

“Before I became a Christian I do not think I fully realized that one’s life, after conversion, would inevitably consist in doing most of the same things one had been doing before, one hopes, in a new spirit, but still the same things.” (On Learning in Wartime)

While God does call some to go out and do spectacular things (Billy Graham and Mother Teresa come to mind), most of us are called to be faithful in a multitude of small ways. I think that the church needs to do a better job of honoring daily faithfulness instead of just focusing on the “great” Christians.

 

In the book you say, “Wholehearted devotion to God consists of radical obedience lived out in surprisingly normal, joy-filled ways. This is what I mean by being radically normal. It’s the biblical art of fully engaging this life while focusing on the next.” Can you give us an example of what that looks like in practice?

Imagine three Christians who all work as programmers at Microsoft. The first programmer does his job, but not much else. He isn’t interested in advancement. All he cares about is getting through his day so he can get to church. In his mind, that’s where he does stuff that really matters.

The second programmer works hard and is very ambitious. In fact, nothing will get in his way as he climbs the ladder. Taking credit for another person’s ideas or sabotaging their work, it’s all part of the game. At church, he sings just as loud as the next person and doesn’t even think about his questionable ethics. Work is work, church is church. Besides, he reasons, it just means more money to tithe on. Maybe.

The third programmer also works hard and is ambitious. He loves his job and feels God’s pleasure when he does well. He works hard to advance, but isn’t crushed if he gets passed over. He believes that his day job and his weekend at church are inextricable connected. He sees work as part of his worship and it’s obvious to his coworkers.

I want readers to think about which one of those three they are more like. Are they so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good? Or is it the other way around? Instead, the Bible calls us to be fully present in this life, while never forgetting that we are citizens of heaven. [Click to tweet!]

 

For someone that is conflicted with their Christian faith, what advice would you give them to live a satisfied life following Jesus?

I think Chapter 11, “Happy Holiness” might be very helpful to them. I can’t cover it all here, but the key point is that obeying God brings joy. The church frequently praises “obedience for obedience’s sake,” but the Bible consistently calls us to obedience for joy’s sake. (Speaking of joy, did you know that the Bible talks about joy more often than peace, grace, or even love? I share my research on joy in Chapter 8, “In Defense of Earthly Joys.”)

Just as my daughters have an easier time obeying me when they know it is for their benefit, it becomes easier to avoid sin and follow Jesus when we know “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

 

What is one takeaway you hope people embrace after reading Radically Normal?

I hope they walk away understanding that they can, by God’s grace, live fully pleasing to God right where they are—without becoming a missionary or going to Bible college. And furthermore, I want them to learn that they’ll have more (not less) joy in by doing so.

 

Get Radically Normal for free when you sign up for daily deal email alerts! Through November 27, you can get a new 24-hour deal each day. Once you enter your email address, you’ll receive your freebie in an email. Be the first to know what’s on sale—sign up for the daily deal!

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Knowing God: An Interview with J.D. Greear (Part 2)

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Today we are continuing our exclusive two-part interview with J.D. Greear, author of the new ebook Jesus, Continued. You can pre-order Jesus, Continued on Vyrso today! 

In some of your writing about the book you say, “Through depth in the gospel and fellowship with the Holy Spirit, we can go from guilt-driven to grace-driven and gift-driven.” Can you give us an example of what that looks like in practice?

When we feel like we are responsible to save the world, we will feel like we are never doing enough—never being radical enough, never sacrificing enough. We’ll always feel guilty that we could be doing more. But when we focus on the fact that God doesn’t need us, that he multiplies loaves and fishes to feed multitudes and pulls $100,000 tax payments out of fish’s mouths if he wants, that burden is gone. When that burden is removed, we can be radically generous in response to God’s grace (that’s grace-driven), and fully surrendered to what God is telling us to do (gift-driven).

Recently I read that Pentecostals are the most effective mobilizers for mission on the planet. That is because they focus less on the enormity of the task and more on what God is directing you to do in his Spirit. The size of the task is crushing. Sensing that God has an assignment for you is empowering. The Baptist and Reformed communities are good at emphasizing the size of the task, which we need to hear, and feel. But we need to take our eyes off the field and look to the God who brings life back from the dead and multiplies our meager resources to feed thousands. Compared to the size of the task, we are nothing. Compared to the size of our God, the task is nothing.

God does not need us to accomplish the Great Commission for him, but wants to accomplish it through us.

For those that are currently mission-driven but burned out, weary, and longing for joy, what is one way they can start living a satisfied life in relationship with God through the Holy Spirit?

I sympathize with those who feel burned out from their mission-driven convictions. As I mentioned above, I would often pursue the mission with zeal, only to end up feeling paralyzed by the weight of it all. I toggled between summers of feverish activity and winters of guilt and fatigue.

The burden of that conviction nearly crushed me. My despair drove me to the Scriptures, and that despair eventually gave way to one of the most surprising insights I’ve ever had, one that has radically redefined how I see my service to Christ.

That discovery? God doesn’t need you! He never has. He never will. For anything. Ever. In Psalm 50:12 God says that if he were hungry, he wouldn’t come to me. God never approaches me as a needy God.

So it turns out I had vastly overestimated what I had to contribute. I didn’t have “more” I needed to give; I actually had nothing God needed to begin with. Nothing.

God is not now, nor has he ever, looked for “helpers” to assist him in saving the world. That doesn’t mean he isn’t calling us to give ourselves generously to that mission or to be sacrificially generous with our neighbors; it’s just that he’s not looking for people to supply his needs. He’s not short on money, talent, or time. He has never commanded us to go save the world for him; he calls us to follow him as he saves the through us.

So instead of asking the question, “What needs to be done in the world?” I should ask, “What is the Spirit of God leading me to do?” Just like Jesus told his apostles to wait on the coming of the Holy Spirit before they went out to the world, we are to look to the Holy Spirit for his direction in what God would have us do. We don’t “wait on” the Holy Spirit like they did, since we have him in our souls already, but we adopt the same posture of humble dependence on him that they had, looking for where he directs us to go.

Do you have any other examples of people that have moved from being weighted by the Great Commission to living empowered and focused based upon God’s gifting and speaking?

I am honored to be a part of a church where I hear stories about God empowering specific people for specific callings all the time. Their stories actually helped me to see how central the leading of the Spirit is in the pages of the New Testament. I could tell a dozen stories, but I’ll choose just one that makes the point beautifully.

I have a friend, Tony, who has adopted five kids, four from Ukraine and one from Kenya (and he says you have no trouble telling which ones are which!). The four from Ukraine he adopted at once. When I asked how he came to that, he replied that one summer he and his wife set out to study the book of Romans together. They felt struck by Paul’s admonition that those who know the gospel should become like the gospel. The more he learned about his own salvation, he said, the more he longed for a way to respond to Jesus for his great grace.

But how should they do this? As Tony and his wife prayed through that question, he came to Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1:5 that God has adopted all believers into his family; then he read Paul’s command in Ephesians 5:1 for believers to imitate their God. “What better way to put the gospel on display,” Tony thought, “than to adopt an unwanted child?”

Tony asked God for the opportunity to do just that, and did God ever open that door! Tony went on a mission trip to Ukraine. While there, the orphanage director told Tony that someone had just brought in a set of four siblings. The kids, ages two through eight, were about to be split up and placed in orphanages around the country . . . unless someone came forward to take all four. When a worker brought the kids out to Tony, he saw four scared little children, all holding hands. They thought they were being called in for discipline. In that moment, Tony knew the Spirit of God had answered his prayer. “Those are your kids,” the Spirit said.

“I know I can’t take care of all the orphans in the world,” Tony said. “But God told me to take care of these four. I know adoption is not God’s will for every family. But it was clear it was the Spirit’s direction for us. We wanted to respond to the gospel, and this is the way the Holy Spirit directed us to do that.”

What is one takeaway you hope people embrace after reading Jesus, Continued?

I want readers to see that personal, interactive relationship has always been God’s plan for his people. This book exists to lead people to that experience if they’ve never had it, and help clarify it for them if they have. God has always been a God who is close and present with his people—but only since Jesus returned to heaven has he taken up residence inside of us.

But how do we know when God is speaking to us, leading us? More havoc has been wreaked in the church following the phrase, “God just said to me…” than any other. How do we balance what God has clearly and definitely said in Scripture and how he moves, dynamically, in our world today?

I also want to help readers understand how closely the Spirit connects to the gospel. Many Christians today talk about the gospel and the Word; others talk all about the Spirit. But these connect at the deepest levels. The deeper you go in the gospel, the more alive you become in the Spirit. By believing the gospel message, Paul says, you are filled with the Spirit (Gal 3:1–3), and if you want to grow more full with the Spirit, you must keep plunging deeper into the gospel message.

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You can pre-order J.D. Greear’s new ebook Jesus, Continued and download his other titles today on Vyrso.com! 

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Knowing God: An Interview with J.D. Greear (Part 1)

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Today we have the wonderful opportunity of sharing with you the first of a two-part interview with J.D. Greear, author of the new ebook Jesus, Continued. You can pre-order Jesus, Continued on Vyrso today!

Tell us a little about the background for your latest title, Jesus, Continued.

Early in my ministry, I secretly felt frustrated with my faith, because it seemed like the people in the Bible had a fundamentally different experience with God than I had. My relationship with God seemed to be one-way. All of God’s presence seemed stockpiled in the past: he created the world, died on a cross, and then inspired a Bible to tell us about it. God was like a busy teacher who had given me an assignment and then stepped out of the room, leaving me to get it done on my own. I had a “relationship with God” in the sense of praying to him about my problems and trying to trust that he was working—somewhere, somehow—to help me. But I didn’t have any real interaction with him. God was a doctrine I knew about rather than a person I knew.

I related to the Holy Spirit the same way I related to my pituitary gland: grateful it’s in there; know it’s essential for something; don’t really relate to it. It certainly wasn’t a sense of the presence of God with me, or a living, moving, dynamic Person.

Jesus, Continued is a book for anyone who shares that feeling. It’s about how the Holy Spirit God is actually present with his people, and through him we have the kind of fellowship with God the disciples had with Jesus (1 John 1:3). He moves in us, speaks through us. He calls us to follow as he goes about accomplishing the Great Commission through us. Mission is not what we do for him, but what he does through us.

This book is for those Christians who want to see God move from being someone they know about to someone they feel is truly present in their lives, someone they interact with personally. It is also for those who have gotten a vision for mission but soon grew weary at the size of the task or their inability to accomplish it. I’m thinking here of everyone from burned out pastors and missionaries to zealous college students and weary mothers.

What was the inspiration behind Jesus, Continued?

I took the title from Acts 1:1, where Luke says that in his former book—the Gospel of Luke—he “wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day he was taken up” (Acts 1:1). The implication is that Acts is what Jesus is continuing to do.

What this means is that the work Jesus began in his earthly ministry he now continues through his Spirit by the church. It’s not that in the Gospels Jesus worked, and now we, in his absence, work for him; during his incarnation Jesus worked through his earthly body and now he works through us.

I believe this is a crucial message to recover. When we approach the Christian life as something we do for God, we quickly feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and eventually burned-out. But when we are filled by the Spirit of God, drudgery is transformed into delight, and the crushing weightiness of the task becomes empowerment for specific callings the Spirit gives to us.

Was there a particular moment that you encountered God speaking to you through the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit appears 59 times in the book of Acts, in 36 of those he is speaking. I see no reason to think he has ceased moving and speaking to his people today, though those movements of us never takes on the weight or authority of Scripture (that level of revelation has ceased; the canon is closed). Scripture is complete, and contains all we need to be complete (2 Tim 3:16-17) But just as we see in the book of Acts, we need the Spirit to move dynamically in our lives to show us how to pursue and execute his mission.

And as I explain in the book, we always need to weigh our experience of God’s Spirit speaking to our spirit with other factors, like the testimony of Scripture and the wisdom of our Christian community. But the Spirit of God can and does speak to us individually. One particular way I’ve experienced that is through what I call “holy ambitions.”

When the Spirit of God wants to work in his people, he often starts by stoking the fires of a particular, holy ambition for a particular ministry or need. The fire of passion for God to do something in your generation, or on your campus, or in your family, grows to a fever temperature inside of you. It’s less of a “word” from God that it is a holy discontent with a situation, a broken heart over injustice and pain, or a burning passion to see God glorified.

For example, Scripture does not record God ever telling David that he wanted him to fight with Goliath. God did not summon David to a “holy huddle” in the pasture in which he said, “OK, David, there will be a giant there, and he will say this . . . and then you get 5 rocks, and then . . . .”

David simply found himself in a place with a defiant giant, burning with holy zeal. He assumed that meant God wanted him to fight. Furthermore, God gave David no assurance that he would defeat Goliath on that day. David simply believed God wanted him to fight the giant and trusted God with the outcome.

I’ve had a few moments like that in my life. For instance, I spent two years living as a missionary in Southeast Asia. Shortly after I left, the worst tsunami on record swept onto the island, killing more than 100,000 people. When I returned and stood at the very spot where the tsunami had come ashore, I sensed God telling me that he would send a wave of salvation through that same area, and that our church was to continually place people there on the ground believing it, waiting for it to happen.

Not every ambition in our heart comes from God, but God certainly uses holy, burning desires like those as a compass to point true north for your life, to show you where he wants you to go and how he wants you to be involved in his mission. You likely will experience it as a holy discontent—a conviction that God wants something different than what the situation currently is. You sense him inviting you to lay hold of his willingness and release his power.

What’s one of your favorite Scriptures that empowers people to live fruitful lives?

In John 16:7, Jesus told his disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” In other words, if they understood what was being offered to them in the Holy Spirit, they would have been glad he was returning to heaven if that meant getting the Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit in them would be better than having him beside them.

That’s a staggering promise. How many Christians today are experiencing the fulfillment of that promise?

When the disciples had Jesus beside them, he wasn’t just a force or a principle. He was a person, someone they interacted with. Someone who spoke into their lives.

The Holy Spirit is to be the same for us. He desires to have fellowship with us (1 John 1:3). And he is to be our guide, as we see him guiding his church throughout the book of Acts. He powers our ministry the way he did those first Apostles. In some ways, the book of Acts can be seen as one extended commentary on Jesus’ promise in John 16:7. The Spirit inside the apostles was even more empowering than Jesus beside them.

He gives us resurrection power over sin, applies the promises and warnings of Scriptures to our hearts, and shows us what parts of the Great Commission belong to us. He turns “good” ideas into “God” ideas. These things make his presence inside us even better than Jesus beside us.

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You can pre-order J.D. Greear’s new ebook, Jesus, Continued, and download his other titles today on Vyrso.com. Be sure to check back Friday for part two of our interview with J.D. Greear.

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Preparing for Parenthood: An Interview with Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

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How can soon-to-be parents make steps to prepare for such a big shift in life? In her new ebook, Expectant Parents: Preparing Together for the Journey of Parenthood, Suzanne Hadley Gosselin seeks to help new parents understand the key issues related to the arrival of a new child in their homeWe had a chance to ask Suzanne a few questions about parenthood and her ebook, Expectant Parents.

New parents are inundated with so much information about pregnancy and childbirth. What makes Expectant Parents stand out from other resources for soon-to-be parents?

Many pregnancy resources give soon-to-be parents health information and practical advice on newborn topics, such as diapering, sleep schedules and doctors’ visits. Expectant Parents focuses on what you can do during this unique season to prepare emotionally, socially and spiritually for being parents. It’s also a marriage book, in that it offers a lot advice from experts about strengthening your relationship with your spouse in preparation for the adjustment of adding an infant to the family.

What were some of the experiences you had as a new parent that you felt unprepared for?

My biggest adjustment was the life-change whiplash that came along with leaving my full-time job as an editor to stay home and care for my son. Even though being a stay-at-home mom had been my dream, I didn’t realize ahead of time the social interactions that would be lost and how lonely and isolated I would feel in my new role.

Also, I didn’t fully realize how having a baby would shift the dynamic between my husband, Kevin, and me. Our son was born several months after we celebrated our one-year anniversary, so we were still very much newlyweds. While our shared joy in having a baby was a really special bonding experience for us, the stress of sleepless nights, newborn care, postpartum hormones and life changes increased our need for communication and empathy. We couldn’t focus on each other the way we had pre-baby and had to learn to be intentional about date nights and conversations that strengthened us as a couple.

What are some ways couples can and should connect during pregnancy?

Knowing they’ll have less quality one-on-one time once the baby arrives, I encourage parents to embrace the season of pregnancy as a time to really enjoy each other. That might mean taking a special trip, planning a few more date nights or just making time for intentional conversations. Pregnancy can be a very romantic time for couples, so they should take advantage of that and work on building solid communication skills and unity that will serve them well as they tackle parenthood together.

You say in Expectant Parents that when you and your husband walked into Prepared Childbirth Class for the first time, you thought, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” Why did you feel that way, and how do you think other new parents can identify with that feeling?

Hearing someone talk about every aspect of the childbirth process and the tasks of caring for an infant can feel really overwhelming. There’s definitely a sense of “there’s no going back” that hits. There’s also a sense of deep responsibility — I think both moms and dads feel in different ways — as you realize another human being is going to be totally dependent on you for everything. You suddenly realize all the things you could do wrong and wonder if you’re up to the task.

What guidance would you offer to dads for helping their wives deal with the physical changes they’re experiencing during pregnancy?

Some women embrace the physical changes more than others, but all women appreciate feeling like their husbands find them attractive during pregnancy, no matter how much weight they’ve gained or how many stretch marks they’ve added. Compliments go a long way. A positive word from her husband about her beauty can erase a day’s worth of defeating thoughts a woman may have been feeling about her changing body.

Practically, a husband can also arrange for his wife to get a haircut or go on a maternity clothes shopping spree—anything that makes her feel lovely. During my last two pregnancies (which went through the summer) my husband budgeted for me to have a pedicure each month so I could feel pampered and wear cute sandals when I didn’t feel as confident in my clothes.

Dads often don’t feel quite as comfortable as moms with newborns. How can new moms make their husbands feel important, competent, and comfortable with a baby?

One really easy thing moms can do is accept the help their husbands offer. Usually a dad will want to do something, whether it is change diapers, bathe the baby or drive Mom and Baby to the first doctor’s appointment. Wives can encourage their husbands to be involved by allowing them to take charge in areas where they feel comfortable. Also, incorporating special “dad traditions” can help men bond with their newborns. Kevin used to lay Josiah on his chest for a little daddy-son snooze each afternoon when he returned home from work.

What are some fears new dads struggle with? What help and advice does Expectant Parents offer them?

Many dads worry about finances and how they will provide for a child. They may also worry about leading their family spiritually, especially if they didn’t have the best model growing up. Expectant Parents reassures men they are not alone in their fears and that God has equipped them not only to do the job but to be a powerful force within their new family.

What is the number-one piece of advice from Expectant Parents you would share with parents for preparing for delivery day?

Be flexible with your expectations! You may be planning on natural childbirth but end up needing a C-section. The most important thing is a healthy mom and a healthy baby. So go in prepared, but be ready to let go of your idea of an ideal birth experience if you need to. Also, invite God to be part of the experience. Pray during labor. Listen to worship music. Have someone write memory verses on your white board. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself that God is with you and a huge part of this amazing miracle.

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You can download Suzanne Hadley Gosselin’s Expectant Parents on Vyrso today

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How to Entertain and Minister with Christian Fiction

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Today’s interview is with Miralee Ferrell author of Blowing on Dandelions, one of our featured titles in our 99-cent fiction sale.

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.

I had no plans to ever write for publication. In fact, I’d never written anything other than a journal, letters to friends, and term papers in high school and college. But God spoke to me through a pastor who prayed with me and told me he believed God was calling me to write—not just to write, but to be published. Even after having 10 books in print, it still amazes me that I’m published, but I’m to the point where I can’t imagine doing anything else. I truly love it and am so thankful He put my feet on this path.

How did you develop Blowing on Dandelions? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook?

God spoke to my heart about writing that one after an experience I had at a conference. I believe it will minister to many hurting women who’ve experienced a less-than-happy relationship with a mother or grown daughter, as well as bringing enjoyment to romance readers. Blowing on Dandelions was birthed as a result of an encounter with an emotionally damaged woman who’d been hurt many, many times over the years by her emotionally abusive mother. I decided to place it in a historical setting and bring a romance element into play, but the underlying theme of ‘relationship’ is clear through the entire story.

Tell us more about the heroine and hero of the ebook—what do you like most about them?

Katherine Galloway is a very strong woman—and a widow—raising two girls on her own while running a boardinghouse and keeping peace in her household among some rather mysterious and cantankerous boarders. She has a sweet and gentle spirit, even with her mother who is determined to set Katherine straight on nearly everything Katherine does.  The hero is Micah Jacobs, a widower with a teen-aged son. Micah lost his wife 18 months earlier and is determined to guard his heart from any future relationships—until he meets Katherine—and encounters challenges he never expected. I love Micah’s tender and gentle spirit with Katherine and even with Katherine’s mother, who isn’t receptive to his suit toward Katherine. Both Micah and Katherine are gentle but very strong people who know what they believe and what they want in life. I love that!

Where do you find your inspiration for your writing?

Honestly, I’m not sure how to answer that, as it varies almost daily. Definitely from the Lord, but at times it just bubbles and flows, while other times it seems as though I’m trying to tap into a dry spring. When that happens, I go for a walk by myself and pray, or think about my characters, or think about what’s troubling me in the book as I’m going to sleep. Oftentimes I’ll wake with an answer so apparent that I wonder why I didn’t see it before.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer?

When I first started it was coming up with new story ideas, as I truly didn’t see myself as a creative person. As that creativity grew and blossomed, the challenge became learning all the ropes of the publishing industry. Now, I’d have to say the biggest challenge is keeping my life balanced between my home and family, writing new work, all the publicity and marketing that I do behind the scenes, and the editing and polishing that goes on while I’m in the midst of a new story. It’s amazing how much work that must be done to succeed in this business.

You have a new ebook, Dreaming on Daisies, releasing on October 1. Tell us more about this new ebook!

This is actually book 4 in the Love Blossoms in Oregon series. All of the others are set in the boardinghouse owned by Katherine Galloway and her two young daughters. Dreaming on Daisies follows all the same characters as the first three books, but the setting is a ranch on the outside of Baker City, although a number of scenes still take place in the boardinghouse, and we continue to follow many of the same characters.

I love writing anything with an Old West feel, and this one fits that criteria. I believe readers will enjoy the ongoing growth and development of characters they’ve come to love by this point, and will especially enjoy the romance that takes place in this story.

What do you hope your readers take away from reading Blowing on Dandelions?

From the time I started writing I had one major goal and that was to minister to the hearts and lives of hurting women while (hopefully) offering a measure of entertainment to the rest of my reading audience. I’ve been involved in praying with and counseling women for years, and I feel that my writing is an extension of that ministry.

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You can stay up to date on all of Miralee’s upcoming titles on her blog, www.miraleeferrell.com. Be sure to get your copy of Blowing on Dandelions today before our 99-cent sale expires!

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Perseverance and Adventure: An Interview with Kate Lloyd

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Today we have the pleasure of interviewing author Kate Lloyd, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She spends time with family and friends in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the inspiration for her bestselling novels Leaving Lancaster and Pennsylvania Patchwork. Forever Amish is the third novel in the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.

You can get her first novel, A Portrait of Marguerite, for just 99 cents through September 26. 

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.  

When I was in college, an English professor told me I wrote well, but I paid little attention. In my twenties, I typed most of a romance novel on a lark, but never pushed it to completion because I got busy with life. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling. When our sons were young I made up tales and songs to entertain them.

How did A Portrait of Marguerite come about? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook?  

A Portrait of Marguerite began itself one morning while I was journaling. As I wrote, the characters sprang to life and the plot unraveled itself. I returned each morning to continue the fun. And I rewrote it ten times. Okay, it wasn’t all fun, but like Marguerite and all my favorite characters, I persevered.

Tell us about the heroine—what is your favorite quality about Marguerite?

I can relate to and admire Marguerite Carr’s determination to overcome her obstacles in spite of inner doubts. We all have them, those negative voices in our ears that are not from God.

You switched to writing Amish fiction. How does A Portrait of Marguerite differ from your later novels?

My passion is writing about challenging and entertaining relationships, plus a splash of romance. At first glance the Amish may seem to dwell at the opposite end of the spectrum from Marguerite, but they don’t. The Amish struggle with many of the same issues and in a manner I find fascinating.

Is there a particular message you want readers to gain when reading A Portrait of Marguerite

I know many who have allowed their childhood dreams to evaporate, be it an artistic endeavor or a relationship with God. It is never too late!

Tell us more about the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.

The Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy is composed of three novels: Leaving Lancaster, Pennsylvania Patchwork, and Forever Amish. I prayed and contemplated about writing an Amish novel. I wanted to honor the Amish, but stay true to my Christian beliefs. I think I accomplished my mission. Little did I know how much research would be required—not an easy task with people who aren’t allowed phones in the home or use the Internet, and are admonished to stay apart from the world. I traveled to Lancaster County, met Amish (we also have Mennonite relatives in the area), and continued to deepen and expand friendships. My journey has been exciting and rewarding.

What inspired you to write the trilogy?

I am fascinated with relationships and people in general. The story and characters for Leaving Lancaster leapt into action and off we went on an adventure. Often my characters lead and surprise me with their choices. One unexpected twist still catches me off-guard. Sometimes I’ll ponder an idea or word for days; occasionally the solution pops into my mind in the middle of the night or while walking. My brain is always at work.

Do you base any of your characters or storylines on people, places, or events from your own life? 

My first reaction is ‘no’, but I’m sure my own life experiences come into play. For instance, when writing about grief or exaltation, I reach into my memory to recall sad or euphoric times and use the emotions as a springboard. I became a Christian in my early thirties, an experience I incorporate in my novels. But the majority of my actual life is not similar to my characters’.

Do you have any new ebooks on the horizon?

I’m working on a new manuscript . . . always writing in my head and accumulating characters and their names. I’ll never grow weary of writing. I hope you enjoy stepping into my world of fiction!

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Through September 26, you can get Kate Lloyd’s A Portrait of Marguerite for just 99 cents as a part of our 99-cent fiction sale. Check out all of her ebooks on Vyrso, and explore the world of fiction she creates!

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Breaking Down Walls: An Interview with Joy Jordan-Lake

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The following interview is with Joy Jordan-Lake, author of Blue Hole Back Home, who has had an admittedly odd professional life including time working as a college professor, author, waitress, journalist, university chaplain, director of a homeless program, and head sailing instructor. 

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.

I was born in the inner city of Washington, D.C., but grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee. I was a pretty shy kid, and was sick a good bit in elementary school, so I read voraciously. Becoming a writer was absolutely the only thing I really wanted to do—though goodness knows, I’ve built in enough emergency back up jobs for the dry seasons (thus the Ph.D. in English Lit.) I feel fortunate that I do enjoy teaching a great deal, since it’s often helpful to bring in additional income.  Books meant so much to me, and so significantly shaped how I saw the world, the idea of trying to write books that created a world and characters and ideas for other people just seemed like a worthy thing to do with a life.

How did Blue Hole Back Home come about? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook? 

For Blue Hole Back Home, in paper and ebook form, the ideas came from my own hometown in the mountains of East Tennessee, and some events of racial violence that took place there. For the purposes of the novel, I conflated several events that actually happened about a year apart—including a riot in reaction to a racist court verdict, a cross-burning and a Ku Klux Klan road block—and put them in the same summer. Some of the characters were inspired by people from my hometown, but some were simply amalgamations of character traits I’ve found appealing or despicable or charming in the people around me. By taking actual events, I had a basic skeleton of an idea, and then felt free to fictionalize the narrative.

Tell us about the heroine. What is your favorite quality about Shelby?

Shelby Lenoir Maynard, known as Turtle to her friends, isn’t remarkably courageous or gorgeous or noble or possessing any of the traits of your typical heroine. But she has a basic stubbornness that she refuses to give in to the elements in her town who want to keep the world divided into “us” and “them.” As a pretty stubborn person myself, I guess I love the fact that sometimes this annoying and potentially ugly character trait can have its admirable side when its channeled into not giving up on situations or people.

Why did you decide to base the book in the summer of 1979?

This was around the time that several of the actual events, on which the book is drew its inspiration from, took place. Also it’s startling to a younger generation of readers, I’ve found, because it’s well past what we think of as the Civil Rights Era—it’s a time when things are supposed to be all peace and harmony on race relations, and the situation in the small-town South is far, far from that.

Do you base any of your characters or storylines on people, places, or events from your own life? If so, tell us more about the connections.

As I alluded to above, Blue Hole Back Home is, yes, inspired by some actual events in my own hometown. Interestingly, I don’t remember much talk about some of these events, including rioting over a terribly unfair, racially-biased court verdict, at that time—maybe because as teenagers, my friends and I were more focused on the next football game than the state of race relations and justice in the world. But since the book was published, I regularly hear from people who also recall various events around the KKK’s treatment of the Sri Lankan family who moved to our little town. It’s been fascinating to hear lots of different stories from folks who recall what they witnessed (such as a terrifying Klan rally back in the woods), or remember feeling like they didn’t know who to talk to about a frightening conversation they overheard. I think I’ve been haunted since age 16 by some of those events, and by my own inability to make sense of them for my Sri Lankan friend or for myself. I suppose when you’re haunted by something, that probably means it’s time to start writing about it.

What would you hope readers takeaway from Blue Hole Back Home?

Hmm, wonderful question. I hope the character Jimbo stays with them for a long time afterward, and what his ferocious hold on hope looks like. My faith tells me that hanging onto hope will look pretty foolish sometimes. Cynicism and skepticism look a lot more sophisticated, you know? I hope the book sort of turns the idea of foolishness on its head. I hope the story reminds us of the simple ways we let walls exist between groups of people, and the sometimes small, or sometimes enormously self-sacrificial acts that rock those walls and send them tumbling down.

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You can get Joy Jordan-Lake’s novel, Blue Hole Back Home on Vyrso for just 99 cents through Friday! Be sure to check-out all of our great fiction deals available for a limited time.

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Exclusive Q&A With Francis Chan

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If we don’t stare at God, we’ll spend our time staring at lesser things. Namely, ourselves.” —You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity

If you haven’t read Francis and Lisa Chan’s new ebook, You and Me Forever, you probably should.

This isn’t your average book on how to have a happy marriage. Co-authors and husband and wife duo Francis and Lisa Chan unpack an external focus for marriage, steering away from advice on how spouses can be happy with one another, and aiming to look at marriage as a mission with God at the center.

We had the chance to ask Francis Chan a few questions about the new ebook:

Tell us about how You and Me Forever developed. What was the inspiration for this book?

I’ve been convicted about this topic for the last five years. Lisa and I don’t fight and we don’t spend a lot of time reading marriage books,  yet we still have a great marriage and I’d been thinking —why has it been so easy? We realized it’s because we’ve been focused on the kingdom. We agree on eternity and focusing on that trumps everything else. It seems like a lot of couples are stuck. Maybe it’s that eternal focus that couples are missing—we want them to have that so they can enjoy marriage as God intended.

What’s one of your favorite Scriptures on marriage and why it is important to you?

Ephesians 5:28-30—The thought that Christ would consider me a member of his body is fascinating.  He has such an attachment to me. For example, if my finger is broken, of course I’m going to take care of it. And Christ thinks of me in that same way—of course, I’ll take care of Francis if he’s broken. And this is how I should view my wife, Lisa.

For your 20th wedding anniversary, you and Lisa decided to travel to Ethiopia. Tell us more about this trip—did it change your perspective on marriage and life together?

It didn’t really change our perspective on marriage that much. However, it increased our sense of urgency and helped to see our position of privilege, and how we can use that privilege to help others who don’t have it. We don’t want to be casual about it.

Learn more about how the Chans are helping support ministry projects through You and Me Forever.

If you could leave our readers with one piece of advice for their relationships what would it be?

Clear your mind as much as you can of all your preconceived understandings of marriage. Whether it’s from examples, advice, sermons, or personal preferences and desires. Take a fresh look at Scripture again to see what God prioritizes and what he says about the place of marriage in light of eternity. Then pray for the courage to make God-fearing changes even if no one else is doing those things.

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Get Francis and Lisa Chan’s new ebook, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, for just $1.99 through September 19!

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Learning to Be Led: A New Perspective on Leadership

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If you claim a leadership role of any kind, then you’ve probably been to a leadership seminar or two, maybe you’ve read some books to solidify your knowledge of good leadership. After a while though, those books and seminars begin to look and sound all too similar. Maybe it’s not the content though, maybe it’s our perspective on learning how to lead.

New to Vyrso

We’ve recently released 81 new titles on Vyrso as Rick Goossen’s Interviews with Entrepreneurial Leaders. Each of these interviews transcribes a conversation between Dr. Richard Goossen and someone in leadership, business, law, community development, or another highly relevant, entrepreneurial role.

Goossen is a decorated entrepreneur and leader on his own. For years he served as CEO of M & A Capital Corp.—a business advisory board. He’s written 3 books—some of which have been translated into six different languages! Goossen currently serves as a Relationship Manager and Strategic Advisor with Covenant Family Wealth Advisors in both Vancouver, B.C. and Toronto, Ontario.

Hearing the experience of entrepreneurs and leaders that have already forged their own path helps to give perspective on what did and didn’t work for them, so you can properly assess what may or may not work for you. Goossen understands that in order to lead, we must first know and understand how to be led.

So much wisdom can be taken from listening to respected and successful leaders like Anne Beiler (founder of Auntie Anne’s pretzels), Allan Burnett (minister at Stanley Park Chapels), or George Tidball (founder of McDonald’s Canada). Each interview from leaders like these and so many more are now available for only $0.99!

Looking to learn more?

If reading through these interviews gets you excited and ready to learn more about leadership from your new perspective, check out Goossen’s next conference coming up. The Entrepreneurial Leaders Organization is putting on a conference in Vancouver, B.C. this coming October 16-17, 2014 and in Toronto, Ontario on October 23, 2014.

Join the ranks of so many other Christian leaders and business people and get new leadership inspiration and know-how. And when you register for one of these two entire conferences, you’ll receive the Entrepreneurial Interview Bundle for free!

Register for the Entrepreneurial Leaders Conference today!

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How to Impress a Girl, Cook the Pefect Steak, and More: An Interview with Jonathan Catherman

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Today’s interview is with Jonathan Catherman—world traveler, speaker, and author of The Manual to Manhood.

1. What are the two biggest things that every guy wants?

At his core of every guy is looking for the same two things. They are hard to identify yet both can be difficult to gain. Simply put, every guy, no matter his age, wants to gain respect and avoid embarrassment.

2. In The Manual to Manhood, you offer a lot of practical advice with step-by-step instructions. How did you learn all of this knowledge?

I believe if I’m not learning I’m not truly living, and I love life. Life is built on many different experiences so I’m constantly looking for new ways to gain more experience. Wiser people than I taught me the value of learning by the, “SEE–DO–TEACH” method. When I “See” that I don’t know how to do something, like grill a steak, I find somebody to teach me. Then I practice doing it myself. Finally I secure my knowledge by teaching someone else. I’m still learning this way.

3. What is your favorite piece of advice to pass along and why?

My friends Jason and David Benham shared these words of wisdom: “Be a fountain, not a drain.” When I asked them to explain this advice they said it simply means that in any situation, try to give more than you expect to take away. Think about it—this is what keeps relationships healthy, teams winning, businesses profitable, and builds the kind of confidence people need to make meaningful life contributions.

4. In your book, you talk about the journeys and events that boys take to become men in different cultures. What is your favorite coming-of-age journey from the past, and how does it relate to becoming a man today?

One of my favorite coming-of-age journeys is from the Native American culture. In some tribes a boy become a man when he is separated from his people for several days and bravely survives on his own. He did this to prove his independence and maturity. It’s also important for guys today to demonstrate their independence and maturity. Yet many guys rely heavily on others to take care of their every need. A man in the making practices caring for his own needs. I’m not suggesting leaving home for a few days. Instead, guys need to learn how to take care of own needs, like cleaning up after themselves, fix-it projects, doing laundry, preparing real food, and how to act in ways that show he is maturing. When a guy knows how to take care of his basic needs he is establishing himself to one day set out on his own.

5. What are three keys to becoming a man of character?

Character takes a lifetime to build and can be broken in a second. Three key aspects of a strong lifelong character include:

  1. Living a principle-centered life.
  2. Doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reason even when no one is looking.
  3. Giving more than you expect to take away.

6. Why did you write The Manual to Manhood?

I started the book as a gift to my own sons, Reed and Cole. They are on their own journey of transformation from boys to men. The book is dedicated to them both. Additionally, I meet thousands of guys each year at my events, speaking engagements, and leadership trainings that lack some of the most basic life skills. It’s my hope that The Manual to Manhood will help them gain the respect all men desire and avoid the embarrassment all men fear. The world needs more good, capable, and confident men to lead families, communities, businesses, politics, faith, and all that life throws at guys. This book is a start for guys who want to build a solid foundation upon seemingly simple things so they can one day take on much greater levels of stewardship in life.

7. Why should teens—or grown men for that matter—read your book?
What would you say to a woman who is thinking about reading your book?

Contrary to a popular saying, practice does not make perfect. Practice will make you better. To the teen guys, grown men, and women alike who want to get better at doing real-life stuff and live in a way that empowers themselves and others than read The Manual to Manhood. Remember, those who can be trusted with the little things in life can be trusted with much more. You can trust that what you read in The Manual to Manhood will help you become more confident within and throughout life.

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Get Jonathan Catherman’s ebook, The Manual to Manhoodon Vyrso today for just $9.74 and learn 101 skills you’ll need to survive!

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