Here is the book trailer for my new book, REAL, Owning Your Christian Faith. Many thanks to my brother, Tim Darling, who worked long and hard on this:
Here is the book trailer for my new book, REAL, Owning Your Christian Faith. Many thanks to my brother, Tim Darling, who worked long and hard on this:
Today, January 11th, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. To help raise awareness of the scourge of human trafficking around the world, I asked my good friend, Kathi Macias to write a guest post. Kathi is a prolific, award-winning author, but the book she wrote that most touched me was her novel, Deliver Me From Evil that put a face to human trafficking. You can read my review. But first, read Kathi’s informative post about this all important issue:
The term “human trafficking” or “trafficking in persons” (TIP) often draws raised eyebrows and skeptical expressions—until statistics are laid out to show that approximately 27 million people are enslaved today, whether for the purposes of slave labor, prostitution, or involuntary organ “donations.”
The Salvation Army has made the rescue of those enslaved around the world their number-one goal at this time, holding seminars and conferences to educate people and to garner support from various individuals and organizations.
The United Nations describes TIP in this way:
“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
In a nutshell, human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is currently tied with the illegal arms industry for the second largest criminal industry in existence, with the drug industry being the only one to edge it out.
Oh, I know. Most people naively believe that human trafficking happens only in faraway countries—Thailand or Cambodia, perhaps. True, it does occur there at a tragic rate. But it also takes place right here in the United States daily, to such an extent that some states are instituting task forces to try and stop it. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot promises that their new task force “will take an aggressive stand against human traffickers, who have turned Texas into a hub for international and domestic forced labor and prostitution rings.”
Another myth about human trafficking is that it only involves adults. Millions of children around the world are crying out in pain and terror over the heartbreaking error of that statement. According to Wikepedia, trafficking in children may come about as an “exploitation of the parents’ extreme poverty. Parents may sell children to traffickers in order to pay off debts or gain income, or they may be deceived concerning the prospects of training and a better life for their children. They may sell their children for labor, sex trafficking, or illegal adoptions.”
Can there be anything that grieves the Father’s heart more than the forced enslaving of people made in His own image—by others bearing that same divine imprint? I believe each time anyone becomes aware of such evil and cries out against it, that cry is spurred by the Father’s own pain. If ever the Church needed to be involved in helping to right a human wrong, it’s now. Human trafficking must stop! And each of us who names the Name of Christ must ask the Father what He wants us to do to help make that happen.
In my case, that includes writing about it—every chance I get, including blogs, letters, articles, and a new fiction-based-on-real-life series that I’m just now starting. Will you pray for me as I research and write it? And will you also pray and ask God what you can do to answer His heart cry of “Let My people go”? Millions of enslaved human beings around the world are depending on you to respond.
I plan on posting key quotes from my upcoming release, iFaith, all the way through into January. Here are a few quotes from Chapter Two.
Somewhere along the line, a famous preacher or best-selling author told us that if we “just trust in Jesus,” or if we “just give enough money,” or if we “just attend church faithfully,” or if we just “follow the rules,” then life will automatically get so much better. There are even whole books and sermons available that teach “the right kind of prayer” that triggers the blessings from heaven.
But what happens when you follow Christ in faith and life gets worse?
Here is another quote from chapter two, after a section where I describe a very personal story of a friend of ours who lost her husband and an examination of the life of Naomi, whose story is told in the Biblical book of Ruth:
Naomi’s story, Ashli’s story—these narratives frighten my generation, because we’re conditioned for the good life. We’ve been fed a steady diet of positive empowerment. We’ve grown spiritually fat on the junk food of bad theology and political promises of prosperity.
There is nothing inherently wrong with prosperity or the good life. But is the American Dream the sum total of our spiritual aspirations? If so, we’ve missed something. What Christ offers is something radically different. Take up your cross, He says. Follow Me, He asks. Deny yourself, He commands.
Cross-bearing? Following? Denying? These words are insulting to a generation conditioned for unlimited success. Sure, we’ll follow Christ, but there better be a safety net. At least a 401(k) and health insurance.
We rarely consider that our trials, the unfair tragedies that roll across the threshold of good people, may be the very signposts that lead others to God.
New Hope Publishers graciously allowed me to post a sample first chapter of my latest release, iFaith, Connecting to God in the 21st Century. This first chapter includes the table of contents, introduction, and first chapter. Hopefully it will give you an idea of the purpose of the book and whet your appetite for more:
When my first book was published, I remember attending my very first ICRS (then it was call CBA Convention). It was in Indianapolis and I had a radio interview scheduled. I was as nervous as a cat. I had just driven 5 hours from Chicago area, got a speeding ticket, and was a bit overwhelmed by all the publishers and books and agents and media.
I was met at CBA by a fellow New Hope author named, Jennifer Kennedy Dean. We waited together outside the recording room where the interview was to be held. She leaned over and said, “Hey, you’ll do just fine. Just relax, take a deep breath, and talk about your book.” I never forgot that. I’m thinking the interview was less than memorable, but that experience gave me insight into Jennifer’s life and ministry. Since then, she’s become a great friend.
Jennifer Kennedy Dean is a multi-published author, most famous for her book, Live a Praying Life. She is the executive director of The Praying Life Foundation. She is the author of numerous books, studies, and magazine articles specializing in prayer and spiritual formation. Her book, Heart’s Cry, has been named National Day of Prayer’s signature book. Her book, Live a Praying Life, has been called a flagship work on prayer.
Jennifer is in demand as a speaker and has spoken in such venues as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove and Focus on the Family.
She is a board member for Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, a member of America’s National Prayer Committee, a board member and broadcaster with WebTV4Women and a member of National Professional Women Association.
1) How did you get your start in writing, publishing, and a speaking ministry?
I started teaching a Sunday School class when I was student at Baylor From that, I had invitations to speak at different college events, and things grew from there. After I had been speaking a few years, I had honed my message to topics related to prayer. In today’s vocabulary, I guess you would say that prayer became my brand. At some point, a publisher approached me about writing what I was speaking. Writing and speaking grew hand-in-hand from then on.
2) You travel around the country speaking to big and small groups on a variety of Bible subjects, but you’re main focus is prayer. What led you to dive so deeply into prayer?
I consider my Bible study, Live a Praying Life, to be my life’s purpose. That’s how important it is to me. It is the culmination of almost 40 years of searching. I’m trying to think back and trace the beginnings of that consuming passion, and I find it interesting to remember that, even as a child, I was always experimenting with prayer. By experimenting, I mean putting it to the test. Trying it out. Trying to figure out its intricacies and what made it work. So maybe it is the culmination of more than forty years of searching. Maybe 57 years of searching. Decades ago, the Lord introduced me to a praying life. When that phrase came to my mind, it changed the way I thought about prayer and opened the door to a whole new concept.
My mother had a great interest in prayer, and always had prayer groups and prayer partners. We had front-row seats for all her prayer adventures, I’m sure I was infected by her. When I started defining my own relationship with Christ, prayer was its center.
God created me to be a left-brain thinker. I need logic. Part A has to fit into Part B. An argument has to hold together from beginning to end. I can’t take things at face value, no matter how hard I try. I need to know how things work. Isn’t it funny that such a person would be called to a passion for prayer? On the surface, prayer seems to be the most illogical proposition ever tendered.
I’m delighted to be in relationship with a God whose invitation is, “Come, let us reason together.” As I probed and questioned and searched, I found that God welcomed my questions and could teach me prayer in a way that satisfied both my heart and my mind. To my relief, I found that faith does not cancel out understanding. In fact, faith produces understanding.
Live a Praying Life is the record of my search. Of course, the search continues. I will never understand everything about prayer, but every day I can understand more. The more I understand, the more I am compelled to put it in practice. Prayer is the conduit through which the power of God is released into the circumstances of earth. That’s what motivates me.
3) You talk about the difference between a “prayer life” and a “praying life.” What do you mean by that?
A praying life is a life lived in an open and receptive attitude toward God. An undercurrent of prayer is always flowing in the life of a believer… sometime articulated in sentences, sometimes not. When you begin to live a praying life, you leave behind the idea that prayer is a group of words sandwiched between “Dear God” and “Amen.” You are always walking in the flow of God’s power and provision; always engaged in an interchange between heaven and earth.
4) You’re latest project is Life Unhindered. You write about walking in freedom. Do you think many Christians live unnecessarily shackled?
Because the Scripture has so much exhortation and instruction on living in freedom, it seems that this is a topic that requires continual growth and reinforcement. We are so accustomed to the things that hold us captive that we often consider them irreversible. We might not even see them as holding us back. But the Scripture strips away the pretense and exposes shackles for what they are. And gives us the keys to throw off every hindrance.
5) What advice would you give to an aspiring Christian writer or speaker?
Everything starts small. Do faithfully what the Lord has put in front of you to do. Live the message you speak from the platform. Trust that God will place you where He wants you, obedience by obedience.
In 2005, I had this crazy idea for a devotional book for teens, based on the lives of teens in the Bible. I was an unknown writer, with only a very short list of published articles. At the time, I was volunteering to help my good friend Margaret McSweeney and her husband David, with their congressional campaign. Margaret is a writer herself. And while we were standing in line at a parade, she asked me if I had sent a proposal to Andrea Mullins of New Hope Publishers. I didn’t know Andrea and I didn’t know New Hope. Well, six months later, I had a voice message on my cell from Andrea. She was interested in my book. After I picked myself up off the floor, I called her and since that time, New Hope has been my publisher. I’ll be forever grateful for her taking a chance on me and helping to develop my writing talent.
I have found Andrea to be a wonderful friend, someone who is deeply passionate about sharing the gospel around the world. Andrea is the publisher/director of New Hope Publishers and the President of Worldcrafts. She is the author of several books herself and has a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Transformational Leadership from Bakke University. Andrea is a sought after speaker for women’s ministry events.
Kathi Macias is a great friend and a fellow New Hope author. She is a prolific author, having written nearly 30 books and ghost-written numerous others. She has taught and coached writers at conferences around the country is an in-demand public speaker at women’s conferences.
My wife is actually reading How to Keep a Tight Ship When You’re Surrounded by Loose Cannons, which she says has already provided her with a lot of laughs and much inspiration for raising our three children.
1) You’ve been writing and speaking for a long time–what first stirred in your heart the passion to put words on paper?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. I was reading before I started kindergarten and just seemed to have an ongoing love affair with words. When my husband, Al, (then boyfriend) and I were walking home from school one day in junior high I announced to him that I was going to be a writer some day. He often comments that I’m probably the only person he knows who knew what I wanted to be when I grew up—and did it!
2) You’ve helped New Hope Publishers launch their first fiction line. You guys are doing something a bit different with it. What exactly is “missional fiction?”
“Missional fiction,” or “fiction with a mission,” is just that: fictional stories based on true stories of those whose lives are dedicated to fulfilling the Great Commission and going into all the world to preach the gospel and make disciples. The stories are based not only on foreign missionaries but also on nationals, all of whom are challenged at some point in their faith—possibly even to the point of laying down their lives. Ultimately, though, we hope to challenge readers to move into that same level of faith. Of course, not all the series that will be included in this “fiction with a mission” line will be about missionaries, but all will have a greater mission of educating and challenging readers to a deeper level of faith and a more vibrant love-relationship with the Father.
3) No Greater Love weaves a story of romance into the epic story of Nelson Mandela, apartheid, and South Africa. What drew you to this story?
This story was originally birthed in my heart more than twenty years ago, as I watched the violence and upheaval in South Africa, preceding the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the downfall of Apartheid. I couldn’t help but wonder how it was affecting believers in that country and how it might eventually affect us in other countries as well. The nugget of an idea—an interracial, forbidden romance—sparked the story, though it sat on the back burner for many years before I sensed God releasing me to move forward with it. By that time my vision for the story had grown to include believers in other countries around the world—hence, the Extreme Devotion series of four books, rather than a stand-alone book as I had originally anticipated. (God’s plans and timing are always so much better than our own!)
4) More Than Conquerors is set in the violence of Mexico’s drug wars. This is an especially relevant given the increasing attention given to what is happening there. What surprised you the most about what is going on there?
Not only does More than Conquerors delve into the violence of the Mexican drug wars, but it encompasses the superstition of the Mayan culture in the Southern portions of Mexico as well—San Juan Chamula in Chiapas State in particular. We hear so much about the illegal immigration problem in our country, about the violence of the drug wars spilling over across the border, and also the human trafficking that is interwoven with so much of these problems. But we seldom hear of the extreme devotion of those in Mexico who love and serve God under some very harsh and dangerous conditions, and who treasure family second only to their relationship to Christ. That’s the part of Mexico I wanted to bring to life in More than Conquerors.
5) If you could give one piece of advice to young, emerging, writers, what would that be?
Spend time with God, discovering and developing your own calling and passion for ministry, and then let that focus birth the words and stories you write. It’s too easy to jump on someone else’s bandwagon, only to discover it’s already full and straining at the seams. You don’t need to adopt someone else’s vision; God has one tailor-made just for you. Seek Him first—and He will be faithful to reveal it to you. And then be patient until He moves you forward in the fullness of His time.