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Bethel Music’s Jenn Johnson: On Worship and Work-Life Balance

August 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Artist Spotlight

Jenn Johnson, senior worship pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, has been leading worship with her husband, Brian, for over 15 years. In addition to raising three children together, they currently lead worship for a congregation of more than 3,000 weekly, oversee a worship team of more than 100 members, and collectively direct Bethel Music. Here’s what Jenn had to say about work-life balance, healthy communication in marriage, and the true meaning of happiness.

What have you learned about communication and work-life balance while working with your husband?

Being in full-time ministry with my husband is amazing, but also challenging. Our biggest struggle has been to separate home life from our marriage and our work. We have to think strategically and put up boundaries in our lives. For example, tonight we’re going on a date, and we have rules: We will not talk about the kids, and we will not talk about work. Sometimes we will just sit there and stare at each other. Also, when Brian comes home from work every day, he turns off his phone so it doesn’t create problems. I would love to say we’ve done it perfectly, but we haven’t. Every day is a new opportunity to do it better.

My husbandMy husband is amazing—he’s such a good man. He loves God, and he loves people. He’s so funny, he’s such a good dad, and he keeps things very lighthearted. I can be mad about something, and he has this way of pulling me out of a funk. We’ve been married more than 13 years, and I’m still madly in love with him. He’s such a good leader, and he sings all the time—there’s constantly music in our house. Someone is always singing.

How do you do it all—mother three kids and do full-time ministry?

My kids are amazing, but balancing it all—being a good mom, working, and traveling—has been a major challenge for me as a woman. I love being a mom, but it’s difficult. It’s hard work no matter what age your kids are. Years ago, I’d just had my first daughter, was raising her, doing ministry, and recording a CD. I felt like my head was going to explode, and I wanted to pull my hair out. I was heading to church to lead worship at a conference. I was scrambling to get everything ready to go while my baby slept, and I looked like a mess. When I ran by the piano in the back room to grab something, I heard the Lord speak to me: just sit down and worship. I was running late to sound check, so frustrated, and I said, Lord, you know what I have to get done, I’m a mess, and I’m going to go worship you in like an hour—what in the world! So I kept doing what I was doing, trying to get ready, and when I walked back past the piano a second time, the Lord said, just sit down. I was so frustrated because I did not have time to sit down and worship like I’d done so many other times for hours and hours before I’d had babies. But I plopped down at the piano with a total attitude, played some minor chords, and starting singing, “What can I do for you, what can I bring to you, what kind of song would you like me to sing?” And the Lord spoke to me. He said, I didn’t want anything, I just wanted to be with you. I sobbed my eyes out. I learned that day, very clearly, that time with him is not to get something, and it’s not task-driven—it’s because this is a relationship, and time together is so important. You don’t have to feel like you have to pray for seven hours every day, no mom can do that—but recognizing and responding to his presence is important.

How do you respond to God’s presence in worship?

There’s a physical expression of praise and worship that honestly comes naturally to me, and I feel how we respond to his presence is like how we respond to a gift. If you’ve given a kid a gift at Christmas, you know it’s not by accident that God’s “presence” is the same word spelled just a little different than “presents.” Imagine giving your kid a gift at Christmas: There’s a big difference between having them stand there with their hands beautifully placed in front of them with hardly any emotion at all, just saying, “Thank you mom, I love you,” vs. “This is totally awesome!” The Lord taught me at a young age that worship is about expressing yourself. If you look up the seven biblical words for “praise,” they are all action words: To bow, to kneel, to raise hands, to dance, to twirl, halal . . . all these different words are expressions. It does not say stand and sing with hands folded neatly in front of you. This doesn’t mean we need to do aerobics for worship—worship needs to be authentic—but there’s something powerful about movement, and there’s something powerful and biblical about dance.

You’re a worship pastor at Bethel Church—do you have any words of encouragement for women in ministry?

jenn_johnson_3I love seeing people become who God’s created them to be. I love fearlessness and confidence in the Lord, especially when women take that on and discover who they are in God. I feel like the tides are turning with what being a woman in ministry looks like. I know there have been forerunners like Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer, and I feel like it’s only going to increase because women are so valuable. They’re as much a part of the body of Christ as men are. We need women. The fact women are wired to be emotionally moved by things is part of Jesus. It’s part of the Trinity. It’s not a masculine movement or masculine religion because Jesus was a man—God created both man and woman, and they’re both needed and valued in the Kingdom. There’s nothing in the world more powerful to me than a mom and a wife and a woman who is doing life with passion and conviction and her whole heart. The world needs that. I could not be a bigger fan of women in ministry, of women becoming all they’re designed to be.

What are three things you’d like to encourage Christian women with today?

First, being connected to someone who’s going to help you grow as a person is everything— someone who knows who you are, calls out your greatness, shows you your blind spots, and really loves you well. A friend of mine, Suzy Campbell, who’s an amazing pastor’s wife in Canada, said to me early on: “Jenn, people will tell you that you can’t be a great mom and do ministry, but I’m telling you that you can, and Jesus will help you figure out what that looks like.” That changed my life because I was in a time when I felt I had to choose: Do I stop what I’ve been doing and raise kids, or can I do both? Suzy encouraged me to let the Holy Spirit teach me how to do it, and to the best of my ability, that’s what I’ve done, and what I continue to do.

Second, I feel at all times in your life, no matter how old you are, you should have people in your life that are your David and Jonathan—your best friends who are a strength to you, and you to them. I call them your “besties.” Also think about who you are pouring into—who areyou building and growing?

Last, I don’t think there’s one right answer to the big debate: working mom vs. mom being home with kids. I think it’s what’s right for you? What does God have for your life? Whatever that looks like, go for it head on—go for it and be happy. I don’t know a time in my life when I haven’t been operating in my sweet spot, because happiness is an inside job. There was a time I was working at McDonald’s, and I was “happy.” Contentment and happiness don’t come in life because you get something or because you arrive— true happiness and contentment are only found in God. Anything physical will never fill the hole we need to be filled by Jesus.

Interview by Allison J. Althoff of Christianity Today


6 Strategies to Sleep Soundly

August 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips
shutterstock_171949283I’ve been thinking a lot about sleep recently. Most research shows that we don’t get enough, and our deficit is seriously hurting our productivity, our physical health, even our mental well being.Leaders and business writers like Arianna Huffington and Tom Rath are devoting more time to the topic. Greg McKeown’s Essentialism, a book I’m very excited about right now, spends a whole chapter on it.

The line we’ve all heard is, if you snooze, you lose. But it turns out the opposite is true.

The costs of not getting enough sleep are staggering. And a key difference maker in accomplishing more is more sleep.

So we all know it’s important. But how do we actually do it? There are a lot of factors working against us, but many of these are easy to address. You don’t have to follow any of these perfectly—I certainly don’t, at least not all the time—but here are six strategies for getting more and better sleep starting tonight.

1. Get Committed

How many times have we been up later than we wanted because there was one more link to click, one more episode to watch, one more page to read, one more whatever?

Researchers call it “bedtime procrastination,” and it’s really about willpower. If we want the benefit of extra sleep, we have to decide on the tradeoff: one less link, one less episode, one less page. Determine to go to bed at a set time and then do it.

2. Set an Alarm

To help follow through on that commitment, set an alarm. There’s an inertia to being tired. We’ve all experienced this. It’s easier to just go on than go to bed. But a calendar alert or phone alarm can help us change gears when we might otherwise cruise along for another hour or more.

Blogger Eric Barker started using an alarm to signal sleep time and reports it’s even more beneficial than a morning alarm.

3. Establish a Ritual

It’s easier to do just about anything when there’s a pattern or a rhythm we can follow. As parents and grandparents, we know bedtime rituals work for our kids, but they can work for us too—especially if the ritual includes things that are helpful in making the transition to sleep, like:

  • getting a warm bath or cup of herbal tea
  • prayer and devotions
  • a novel saved just for bedtime
  • processing the day with our spouses in bed

The key is to follow the same pattern most nights, even on weekends. I find winding down with Gail and prayer are essential for my evening ritual, and when I skip them my sleep suffers.

4. Go for a Run, but Not Before Bed

We all know about the benefits of exercise for health and longevity, but it’s crucial for improved sleep as well. Research shows that exercise in the morning or afternoon can benefit sleep.

David K. Randall’s survey of sleep science, Dreamland, confirms these findings and adds another side benefit of exercise, particularly outdoor activity. Exposure to sunlight helps “keep the body’s clock in sync with the day-night cycle and prime the brain to increase the level of melatonin [the sleep-regulating hormone] in the bloodstream,” he says.

The important thing is to avoid exercise right before bedtime, which will make it harder to fall to sleep.

5. Kill the Lights

Just as important as getting enough natural light during the day, it’s critical to extinguish artificial light at night.

More than nine in ten of us use electronic devices before sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Not only can the tweets, emails, videos, and articles we consume leave our minds buzzing and unrestful, the light from the devices themselves—even little LEDs—can compromise our slumber.

To prevent experiencing what expert Michael J. Breus calls “junk sleep” consider:

  • turning off TV’s, tablets, and other screens an hour before bedtime
  • putting your phone in a drawer or leaving it in another room
  • getting black-out curtains for summertime or sleeping with an eye mask
  • reading a genuine paper book instead of a tablet before bed—remember those?

There’s no sense getting to bed on time if we’re getting poor sleep throughout the night.

6. Blow off Work

For high achievers like us, this is really important. Let’s agree to let the report wait for morning—the design comps, too, and the email. Unless we’re already totally exhausted, all of these things just keep our minds active long after we close our eyes.

Our bosses don’t own our sleep. And if you—like me—are your own boss, then let’s give ourselves a break! If you can’t let something go, just write it down, hit the hay, and deal with it in the morning.

“Each day has enough trouble of its own,” Jesus said.

The evidence for the importance of sleep is clear at this point. All that remains is for us to take it seriously enough to change our habits. After all, becoming more productive, efficient, and effective in every other area of our life is pointless if we cheat our minds and bodies the rest they deserve.

Question: Do you struggle to get enough quality rest? What’s the one strategy you could implement to improve your sleep tonight? You can leave a comment below.

MichaelABOUT: Michael is the author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World (Thomas Nelson, 2012). This is a book for anyone trying to create visibility for themselves, their product, service, cause, or brand.

Michael has spent most of his career in the book publishing industry, most recently as the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the seventh largest book publisher in the United States and the largest provider of inspirational live events in the world. He currently serves as the company’s Chairman.

Michael now devotes his time to writing, speaking, and consulting. His blog is one of the top leadership blogs in the world. He has written seven books, one of which landed on the New York Times bestseller list where it stayed for seven months. His podcast, “This Is Your Life” is one of the top ten business podcasts on iTunes.

Michael has been happily married to his wife, Gail, for thirty-four years. They have five daughters and seven grandchildren. They live outside of Nashville, Tennessee and in his free time he enjoys reading, running, and golfing.

Learn more and read Michael’s latest blog post at


Our Year without Groceries

August 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment | Posted in Lifestyle
Year without GroceriesMy oldest son has always been inspired by hard work.

At 4, he practiced the violin every day. At 5, he carved one dagger after another from wood. At 6, he built a cob cottage in our backyard. And at 7, he used a grown man’s axe to chop down 30-foot trees for a log cabin. So, when at 8, Jack came to me and my husband Josh with the idea that our family of five not visit a grocery store for an entire year, we actually sat down to figure it out because we knew he was serious. And because we knew if we didn’t give it a shot, we might end up with a railway in our backyard instead.

Many of Jack’s ideas have sprouted from characters in books, like the Little House in the Big Woods series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura and her family travel once or twice a year to the small town of Independence for staple groceries like sugar and salt while the rest they hunt, grow, or trade with neighbors. In Jack’s mind, if the Ingalls could do it, why couldn’t we? Never-mind that they lived over 100 years ago.

And so in early December last year the five of us—me, Josh, Jack (8), Esme (6) and Titus (2)—discussed Jack’s idea over dinner one evening. When I say we discussed it I mean we laid down the ground rules because trying it was a foregone conclusion. We came up with the following:

  • Buy locally from farms but no grocery stores
  • Eat our own chickens, deer, eggs, and garden bounty
  • Go out to eat at the end of each month as a family “Hurrah! We survived another month!” celebration.

Three weeks later, on New Year’s Day, we officially began our year without groceries. Initially, I assumed we would learn patience and contentment from eating similar meals and waiting for things to grow. But I had no idea how rich our lives would become (and no idea that cabbage is pretty much the only thing that grows in Georgia in January).

A couple months in, I was fascinated. Even though we still had the occasional, “Please mom, don’t make me eat this” moment, on the whole our eating experience had already been revolutionized. Ben Franklin said it well, “Hunger is the best pickle.” As winter turned to spring, we were thrilled to sit down together around the table because we were truly hungry. It sounds so simple but before the experiment, our constant snacking kept us topped off so that come dinnertime, cajoling to get the kids to eat almost always occurred.

There was even a different sense as we said our blessing before each meal—a sincere gratitude born from desire and expectation. I couldn’t help but parallel other aspects of our lives to this principle: by not feeding our every whim at the instant it occurred we felt an earnest delight when each need was met in its time.

The most amusing part was how sorry others seemed to feel for us (which I understood because I thought I would be feeling sorry for us). Neighbors insisted we take some of their food. Friends stopped by and inevitably asked, “How are you holding up?” I’d tell them we didn’t have normal foods on our table but we did have quite a variety: milk, oatmeal and eggs for breakfast; fruit, beans and homemade cornbread or wheat bread for lunch; venison, chicken or lamb with green vegetables and brown bread for dinner. It was more than enough. And as the experiment continued, we had even more.

We are now halfway through the year and as I look back on where we were in December, I can already say with certainty that we have forever been changed—and not just because we’ve learned the hard lessons like patience and sacrifice.

My children have a keen sense of when blueberries grow and they anticipate June because of it. They finish every morsel of their yogurt, cheese, and crackers because they helped make it and understand it isn’t in infinite supply. Together we’ve met countless folks from whom we buy honey, cheese, lamb, milk, and vegetables. Many have become friends who eat dinner with us and teach us their different trades.

Jack and Esme now relate milk to Sam and his cows and veggies to Natalya, a lovely Russian lady around the corner who sells her greens right out of the field. When we run out of butter, Jack doesn’t blink an eye but skims the cream off the top of the milk, pops it in the blender, and whips it up for us. It is their new normal.

Today we look out the window and we see more than green plants and growing gardens. We hear more than the sounds of nature. We feel a deep sense of opportunity, provision, and delight. I can’t help but wonder how many other crazy ideas my kids have had that I passed over. I at least know that I am enormously grateful this one found a home here.

Learn more at

About: Clare Adams lives in Ellerslie, Georgia where she grows veggies, chickens, and children with her husband and faithful dog, Stella.

The Hugs Are Free At Tim’s Place

August 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Videos
Tim Harris, owner of Tim’s Place, is the country’s only restaurant owner with Down’s Syndrome, and the joy he gets from serving people good food carries over into his diner’s most famous export: hugs! Tim’s restaurant is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is open 7 days a week. Read more about Tim & his restaurant here:

14 Peach Recipes to Make Before the End of Summer

August 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
From cakes to ice cream to salsa — stone fruit is in season, and these recipes should be at the top of your must-make list for the rest of the summer.


Mini Grilled Peach Layer Cakes: Guess how many ingredients it takes to make this? Guess! Guess! Four. Yup, just four ingredients churn out this tower of pound-cake magnificence. (via Brit + Co)


Peach Fruit Roll Ups With a Surpirse: Never ever, ever, ever, ever will we be too old for fruit rollups. Make like this blogger and roll ‘em up for the kids or your partner with a sweet message lining the paper. (via In Sock Monkey Slippers)


Peach Cinnamon Chip Ice Cream: Our very own Tessa Huff made this recipe in honor of her big love for stone fruit. And in Tessa’s opinion, no recipe is complete without a little spice, so cinnamon it is. (via Brit + Co)


Peaches + Cream Cake: If you want to get this cake in your mouth in a hurry, skip the made-from-scratch direction and go with a yellow box cake instead. So simple! (via Peaches and Cream)


Peach Salsa: Fish, chicken, salads, chips… the list of things goes on and you’re going to want to cover them all in this stuff. (via Pies + Pastries)


Brown Sugar Peaches and Cream Grilled French Toast: A summer rule: All meals must be made on a grill. This breakfast recipe will make sure all your breakfasts abide. (via Half Baked Harvest)


Glazed Sweet Roll Beach Crumble Muffins: Monday mornings just got better courtesy of this crusty muffin top. (via Deliciously Yum)


Peach Cupcake: Light, moist, fruity cake topped with sweet creamy buttercream is what you need to whip up for your next picnic… or for your next it’s-Tuesday-night-and-I-want-a -cupcake adventure. (via Oh Sweet Day)


Grilled Stone Fruit + Almond Mascarpone Dip: By now we all know that grilling fruit is a wonderful thing, right? Forget three-layer cakes, this is your new go-to dessert when guests are coming over. (via Dessert for Two)


Peach Dump Cake: Admittedly, the name isn’t the most appetizing, but here are a few things that are: This cake is gluten-free, it forgoes the butter in exchange for olive oil and it can be made with just one pan. If the thought of washing all those dishes has stopped you from baking in the past, there’s nothing stopping you now. (via Brit + Co)


Ginger Peach Lemonade: Sugary, zingy, spicy — this drink has all the taste sensations covered. (via The Sassy Life)


Roasted Peach and Yogurt Popsicles: Read ‘em — roasted peaches, honey, yogurt and vanilla. That’s all it takes for you to have this frozen treat sitting pretty in your freezer. (via One a Sweet Sugar Rush)


Braised Spare Ribs: Peaches are at their prime right now. But when winter comes, they’re not going to be as delish. When you get the stone fruit craving in December, reach for this recipe that uses canned goods —- but remember to stick with the fresh stuff while the getting’s good! (via Brit + Co)


Honey Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa: Move over oatmeal. There’s a new morning grain in town. This recipe can really be topped with anything, but blackberries, strawberries, grapes and peaches are a winning combination. (via Simple Healthy Kitchen)

What are you making with peaches this summer? Let us know in the comments below!

God is Present in Hollywood. Pray for Hollywood.

August 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Videos

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