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Enrich your Easter with traditions from around the world

March 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
By the time Easter rolls around, winter-weary folk in the Northern Hemisphere are more than ready for some rollicking fun. A handful of countries have traditions so rambunctious, tourists may regret not reading their “know-before-you-go” brochure.

Easter tradition the Passover Seder

In Poland, residents wake up Easter Monday to an all-day water fight to celebrate Śmigus-Dyngus, or Wet Monday. Historically young men would drench sisters and girlfriends with water to wish them health and youthfulness, but nowadays anyone can be fair game!

In contrast, Czech men seem a little more hydrophobic. They bestow their good wishes by playfully swatting their womenfolk with braided willow twigs.

Visitors touring northern Germany at Easter will want to be careful where they stroll at night. In several regions, igniting a giant ball of straw and sending it careening downhill in the dark is the thing to do at Easter time.

Narrow lanes aren’t safe to stroll in Corfu, Greece, even in broad daylight. There, residents prepare for Easter by hefting clay pots from their windows and balconies, cheering as the pots smash into shards on the street.

Fortunately for the high-strung tourist, not all Easter customs are quite so spirited! Here are a few delightful traditions you might want to borrow for your family’s celebrations.

From Denmark – Secret snowdrop letters

easter_DenmarkIn Denmark the early blooming snowdrop isn’t just a flower – it’s also a symbol for a friendly trickster or tease. And it’s in that spirit that Danes love to kick off their Easter celebrations with “secret snowdrop letters.” Called gækkebreve in Danish, secret snowdrop letters combine three fun elements in one charming tradition: the thrill of receiving a Valentine’s-like note, the challenge of guessing the sender’s identity, and the artistry of intricate paper cutting. For those who are more pragmatic than romantic, gækkebreve also represent a chance to score a few more Easter eggs!

Adapting this idea for your Easter celebration

Here’s how to make your own gækkebreve to bless members of your family. (It’s much like making paper snowflakes):

Take a square sheet of paper and fold it in quarters. Cut some decorative notches along the fold lines, then trace and cut an interesting design for the outside edge of your notepaper. (Google “gækkebreve images” for inspiration and admiration!)

Now it’s time to unfold your newly-created notepaper and think of something to write. Danes traditionally write their message in rhyming verse, and they don’t sign their name. Instead, they add a row of dots, each dot representing one letter of the sender’s name. (The message ends with a challenge to guess the sender’s identity.)

If you’d like, you can adapt the Danish custom slightly to more closely tie your letter to Easter: add an encouraging verse about Christ’s triumph on the cross, but remove a key word and add a row of dots instead. For example, your message might include this verse: He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His . . . . . . you were healed.

Fold your note to fit into your envelope. Before sealing the envelope, slip a single snowdrop bloom into your letter. (A hand-made paper one is fine too.)

Once the recipient receives your secret snowdrop letter, they have until Easter Sunday to correctly guess the “missing” word. If they can’t guess, they owe you a chocolate egg. But if they do guess correctly, you owe them an egg!

From Israel – The Passover Seder

easter_israelIt’s hardly the kind of meal you would expect to catch on: salty parsley, pancake-thin bread, horseradish, chopped apples, boiled eggs and a bare lamb bone. Among traditional Jewish families however, this ceremonial meal is eagerly anticipated and carefully celebrated every year, just as it has been since Old Testament times.

Today the Passover Seder has a whole new fan base. More and more evangelical Christians are discovering Christ-focused versions of the Seder – and they love them!

Like the traditional Jewish Seder, the “Christianized” version commemorates God’s rescue of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt (as recorded in Exodus). At the same time, it also goes much further, finding in the Exodus account and the Seder ritual powerful foreshadowing of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Then there’s also the appeal of participating in a Seder much like the one Jesus would have celebrated during The Last Supper, when He broke the bread and blessed the wine as symbols of His death (the origin of our observance of communion).

Trudy Hamel, a reader from Langley, BC, explains why her family has celebrated a Passover Seder every Easter for over 15 years:

“We first discovered the Seder outline that our family uses in a Focus on the Family magazine from 1998, and it’s become a very important family tradition for us. One year my daughter wasn’t able to join us, and she was heartbroken. . . . So much of the symbolism in the Seder points to Christ as the Passover lamb and His blood shed on the cross for us. It’s deeply meaningful, and understanding the Passover Seder brings new understanding of communion too.”

Adapting this idea for your Easter celebration

You can find easy-to-follow guidelines for a Passover Seder in this article entitled “From the Passover Lamb to the Lamb of God.

Before beginning your Seder celebration, it’s a good idea to read Exodus 12 aloud to your group. You might also want to enrich your ceremony with additional symbolic elements of your own. Some families dress in Biblical costumes and “recline” on cushions at a low table – as was customary for wealthy people of the day – to emphasize freedom from slavery. The Hamel family eat their Seder dressed in jackets and shoes, “ready to flee Egypt.” Another idea is to add a reverent ceremony of washing each other’s feet, just as Jesus did for His disciples during The Last Supper.

From Bermuda – Kite flying

easter_bermudaIs it a bird? Is it a plane? In Bermuda at Easter time, it’s most likely a kite! Locals celebrate by flying colourful hexagonal kites that are unique to the region, and are flown only at Easter. Popular belief holds that the custom began when a Sunday school teacher – a member of the British Army – sent a kite with a cross-shaped frame aloft to teach his class about Christ’s ascension.

Adapting this idea for your celebration

Trucking the kids outdoors for some kite flying would be a super fun way to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. There are also some good reasons to consider holding a special family celebration to commemorate Christ’s ascension, which took place 39 days after Easter Sunday. Kite flying would be perfect for this too.

For kids, a closer look at the many times Jesus appeared in bodily form (post-resurrection) can help cement some important concepts, for example:

  • Jesus’ resurrection was real, witnessed by many, and Jesus wants us to be sure about it
  • Jesus wants us to be sure about His ability – and deep desire – to resurrect us to be with Him eternally too
  • just as Jesus died for us, He also returns for us. When we look for Him, He always draws alongside. He wants to ensure we understand His plan for us, and that we stick to that plan. 

Here’s an idea you can collapse into a single day if you wish (Easter Sunday). Or, if you prefer, you can spread it out over the following 39 days and end with a celebration of Jesus’ ascension (commemorated on May 29 for 2014):

First, designate a small object or symbol to represent “Jesus appearing.” (For example, a small wooden cross.) Surreptitiously place your symbol somewhere in your main living area, and wait for one of your kids to notice “Jesus is here!” Enjoy a small treat – a few candies or perhaps a fruit juice ice pop each – while you review one or two of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to His disciples. Repeat “Jesus appearing” and your study of Scripture as often as you wish. End by celebrating Jesus’ ascension with an evening of kite flying!

Here are some relevant Bible verses you might like to use:

  • John 20:10-18 – Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene
  • Matthew 28:1-8 – Jesus appears to the women hurrying away from the tomb
  • Luke 24:13-35 – Jesus walks with Cleopas and friend on the road to Emmaus (seven miles from Jerusalem)
  • Luke 24:36-49 – While Celopas is telling a sceptical bunch of disciples about meeting Jesus, Jesus appears among them 
  • John 20: 24-29 – A week later, Jesus appears to Thomas and the other disciples 
  • John 21:1-23 – In Galilee, Jesus makes breakfast for Peter and his fellow fishermen
  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 – Paul recounts that Jesus appeared to 500 followers, to His brother James, and to Paul himself
  • Matthew 28:16-20 – Eleven disciples climb the mountain in Galilee where they receive the Great Commission  
  • Acts 1:1-11; Mark 16:19-20 – The disciples witness Jesus’ ascension into heaven

Additionally, you might like to share how Jesus has “suddenly showed up” in your life lately.

From Rome – Rose petals for Pentecost

Pentecoste al PanthonWhen it comes to surprise parties, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a doozy! Today in Rome the celebration that marks Pentecost Sunday may not be much of a surprise anymore, but it still attracts a crowd. In the Pantheon, at the conclusion of mass, firefighters heft thousands of red rose petals through a hole in the ceiling to flutter down from on high, symbolizing the Spirit coming as tongues of fire.

Adapting this idea for your celebration

Like the argument for celebrating Jesus’ ascension, there’s a lot to be said for celebrating Pentecost as a family too. Pentecost helps youngsters understand that although Jesus’ bodily presence “left us” (with His ascension), ten days later He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us always.

Just as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost wowed the disciples, see if you can surprise your kiddos with this idea too:

If you have a ceiling fan, lucky you – you’ve less work to do! Just secretly load flower petals or scraps of tissue paper on top of each blade of your fan. If you don’t have a fan, loosely tape a large square of tissue paper to the ceiling loaded with your petals and paper. Leave a string dangling from one corner (cut short enough that only an adult can reach it). Alternatively, you can simply throw handfuls of petals or confetti on your kiddos when the time comes.

To include sound effects “like a violent wind” with your surprise, search online for audio of a wind storm and play it when you release your “Holy Spirit confetti.” Or you could have the kids make the sound effects themselves: show them how to blow across the mouth of a plastic bottle to make their own “wind music,” then release your confetti while your “wind orchestra” is still experimenting.

Follow up your Pentecost surprise by reading Acts 2:1-47 together. If your children are good readers, you might like to pretend you are the disciples “speaking in other tongues.” Prepare by searching online for a favourite Bible verse in a number of different languages. Give one translation to each child and have them simultaneously read their verses aloud.

For a great conclusion to your celebration, see if you can find a multi-language version of your favourite worship song. Or check out Chris Tomlin’s fabulous World Edition version of How Great Is Our God (available online).


Dear You Who Doesn’t Want to Do that Hard Thing

March 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips
Dear Lovely You,who doesn’t want to play the piano, take out the recycling, study for your geometry exam, get on the treadmill, clean up the basement, or do that big thing that feels like an impossible thing—

okay, yeah, boy, do I hear you.

It doesn’t matter a hill of sprouting beans if you’re 9 and stomping your feet or 16 and slamming doors or 40 and distracting on your phone — hard things just keep calling you because you’re meant to answer to higher and better things.















You’re meant to do hard and holy things because they are the next thing —- to get to the best thing.

You’re made to do hard and holy things because there’s no other way to get to the happy and holy things.

You know how we wrote it up there on the chalkboard in the kitchen years ago, and we all memorized it? Well, it’s true, and it’s hard, but there’s a brave hope in it:

Life is Pain — and you get to choose: either the Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Disappointment.

Life is Pain — and you get to choose: either the Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Disappointment.

Nothing happens without discipline. No music gets played without discipline. No games get won. No finish lines get crossed. No freedom gets tasted. And you want that.

Yeah, look, we had a kid who scored in the 99.7 percentile on the ACT, and that’s all well and good and extraordinarily wonderful, but it’s like my Dad always said:

Brilliant doesn’t matter, if you can’t get out of bed.

Talent doesn’t mean a thing, if you let Fear be some terrorist that takes you hostage.

Potential doesn’t add up to anything, if you get addicted to perfectionism because perfectionism is slow death by self.

Listen: Fire your perfectionism and your procrastination will quit too.

Fire your perfectionism and your procrastination will
quit too.

Because here’s the thing:

The Presenter

You’re the Presenter.

You’ve been given a gift — and you’re the person who is trying to be present to this present moment, and do the hard work of unwrapping your gift, your talent, your vision, your God-given dreams. Presenters want to be present to life and their calling and the joy and the work — but they know that the path is painful.

The Perfectionist Terrorist

Presenters know that the path is painfulbecause behind ever corner lurks The Perfectionist Terrorist. The Perfectionist Terrorist is a liar to the nth degree — he tells you that if you’d just get it perfect enough, do it right enough, be good enough —- that you’ll be liked by everyone enough.

But the truth of it is? Sometimes you have to accept that you’ll never be acceptable enough for some people. And whether you accept that as their issue or yours — is up to you.

The Perfectionist Terrorist claims to have High Road Motives, claims to want to make everything turn out perfect, but his policing pressures you and poisons you and prosecutes you, until it all paralyzes you.

The Procrastinator

So The Procrastinator tries to protect you, The Presenter, from The Perfectionist Terrorist, tries to intervenes with distractions, temptations, and interruptionsor just pushes you to pull out and give up.

Honestly, The Procrastinator is just trying to protect you from the bullying of The Perfectionist Terrorist.

The Perfect Love

So Who’s missing in this struggling, messy triangulation of The Presenter, the Perfectionist Terrorist, and The Procastinator? The compassionate Words of Perfect Love.

You just need Perfect Love.

There is His Perfect Love who kicks all your fear to the curb, there is His Perfect Love who accepts you 100% before you perform even 1%, there is His Perfect Love who speaks Protection and Peace and promises the Power of the Holy Spirit so you can fire perfectionism and procrastination will quit too.

You fire your perfectionism every time you let His Perfect Love ignite you.

You fire your perfectionism every time you let His Perfect Love ignite you.

When you rest in Perfect Love — discipline comes easily because you’re being a disciple of Perfect Love — you’re following Perfect Love.

And Perfect Love says you don’t to have show anyone upyou just have to show up.

Perfect Love says you don’t have to impress anyoneyou just have to press on.

Perfect Love says when you mess upHe’ll pick you up… and when you can’t carry on, He’ll carry you.

So dear Lovely Kid, Trying Friend, Tired You, who doesn’t want to practice that thing, 
clean up that thing,
study for that thing,
sweat on that thing,
or do that big thing that feels like an impossible thing —
You can bravely do the next thing, because God’s got this thing.

Perfect Love terminates The Perfectionist Terrorist — which eliminates the Procrastinator — which liberates you, the Presenter…. to unwrap your special gift.

There’s snow down in the woods, all down the road this morning, the ice clinging at the edge of things —- and you can feel it if you turn your face toward the sun —-

all those hard things melting in the heat of a greater and perfect warmth.


David Oyelowo: ‘Selma Was a Spiritual Endeavor For Me’

March 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in World Community
If you head out to see Selma this weekend and have the sneaking suspicion that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. looks awfully familiar, you wouldn’t be wrong. David Oyelowo, who plays the civil rights leader in the film, is everywhere this year—from roles in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and J. C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year to his major role as King.

David Oyelowo in 'Selma'

What you might not know is that Oyelowo is also an outspoken Christian whose faith played a major part on the set of Selma and in his career. He and his wife Jessica moved from their native England to Los Angeles in 2007, where they live now with their four children.

Oyelowo, who is gracious and humble, spoke with CT by phone about praying on set, feeling God’s presence, playing an icon as a real human, how acting can be a calling, and why Christians ought to see Selma.

The film opened in limited markets on Christmas Day, and opens wide tomorrow, January 9. Alissa reviewed it for CT. And Ken Morefield, who regularly contributes to CT Movies, wrote about his set visit and roundtable discussion with co-star Wendell Pierce at his blog.

You’ve said in other places that you felt God’s strong hand on you over the years since you first read the Selma script. Can you tell us a little about that?

On the 24th of July, 2007, God told me that I was going to play Dr. King in this film. The reason I know the date is that it was a real surprise to me. I’m not American, I’m from England, and I’d only just moved from America two months before reading the script. The idea that I would be the one to play Dr. King was, to be honest, a bit shocking to me.

David Oyelowo in 'Selma'But I do know God’s voice. I became a born-again Christian at the age of 16, and my spirit didn’t doubt it. My flesh was a little more skeptical. I auditioned for the role, and the director who was attached didn’t feel I was right for the role, which kind of surprised me spiritually. But like I say, my soul was like, okay, I understand. I hadn’t done many films, really.

But then what went on to happen was a seven-year journey in which God gave me opportunities—from playing a Union soldier in Lincoln, who was basically a kind of pre-incarnate version of Dr. King asking for the vote, opposite Abraham Lincoln; to playing an African American fighter pilot in Red Tails; to playing a preacher in The Help; and then the son of a butler in The Butler, which gave me a sort of educational tour of what it meant to be an African American in this country; and all the way to this divine moment we’re in now, when this film is dropping at a time where we are in the midst of racial unrest in America yet again.

Can you talk a little bit about the spiritual atmosphere that happened on set?

One of the amazing things about doing Selma is that every single day things were happen that just don’t happen on your average set. There’s a point in the film where there’s a speech I give from the Capitol set right at the end of the film and the production designer had put a lectern there for me to do a speech from. And he just didn’t feel it was right—it felt like Dr. King should be doing that speech from a pulpit.

David Oyelowo in 'Selma'So he walked to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, which is just a few hundred yards away from where we were shooting that scene and asked them if they had a pulpit we could borrow. They said, “Well, you can’t have the one that’s in the actual church, but we found this pulpit in the basement two days ago. You can use that one.”

And then we found out it was the actual pulpit Dr. King gave that actual speech from.


The exact same pulpit. And it had been found two days before! These events we’re showing in the film happened 50 years ago. At any time in those intervening years could that pulpit have been found.

Things like that happened so many times. It was like God was winking at us. A lot of the people on the set were people of faith—they were either Christians or they’d been raised that way, and so it was very easy to talk about faith. Obviously, we were portraying people of faith, and there were several scenes, especially more difficult ones, where we would all pray together before going into those scenes.

Which scenes those? Why did you decide to pray during them?

There are a couple of speeches I give in church in the film. One of them is the “give us the vote” speech; the other is the “who killed Jimmy Lee Jackson?” speech. The day that we were going to be doing those scenes, there were 500 extras there in the church. And I decided—or I asked—if it was okay for me to pray with everyone just before we go into it. It was going to be the first time I was giving speeches as Dr. King. And so I prayed.

Just after I prayed, everyone was really fired up, and we were about to go into the scene. Ava, our director, was just about to call action—and all the lights suddenly went out.

An electric storm started, which meant that they had to shut the generator off in case it electrocuted anyone. We had to break for lunch early. We all went outside, and the sky turned pink and purple with a double rainbow. There are people who had lived in Atlanta for years who said they’d never seen the sky do that.

So we came back—it was in the evening. We’d seen this sky, we’d lived through what felt like a spiritual event, and then we shot those speeches, which as you can imagine, was far more charged than it would have been otherwise.

Did you feel God’s presence when you were delivering your lines?

I absolutely did. I had always known that I couldn’t play Dr. King purely out of my own ability as an actor. When you look at him give those speeches, you can tell that he is taken up by something other than himself. He is flowing with an anointing that is directly from God. You can’t act that—you’ve just got to pray that a similar spirit flows through you. There were definitely times when he’s giving the speeches, or even just in ordinary scenes, where I felt God very close to me—it may sound a little strange, but I did feel the spirit of Dr. King close to me at times as well. And I’m only able to say that because I’ve never felt that in any other film.

53273Talk to me about the difficulty of playing an eminent, and yet controversial figure like Dr. King who’s revered, and also flawed.

I think what you just said is the key: yes, he’s revered, but he’s also flawed. The flawed part basically describes every human being walking this planet. We are the ones who project reverential attitudes toward people onto people. He didn’t walk around thinking of himself as an icon. He didn’t walk around thinking of himself as a historical figure. He was very aware of his fallibility. And if you’re going to play him, that’s the thing to focus on. Not his fallibility, but his humanity.

If you’re going to play human beings, and you’re going to play them three-dimensionally, you have to show every side of them. That was one of the pleasures of playing Dr. King.

Why do you think American Christians, in particular, should watch Selma?

Because you see someone who doesn’t just talk about their faith; you see someone who walks it out, with sacrifical love. The Bible says, Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.

That is not only what Dr. King did ultimately (in being assassinated); it’s what he did for those 13 years that he led the civil rights movement. Every day he sacrificed seeing his kids. He had to endure death threats. He had to endure ill health. He often went into the hospital for exhaustion, because he was constantly putting himself on the line for others. That’s what the Bible tells us to do.

I think in seeing Dr. King in this film, you don’t necessarily just see the icon, but you see the human being. And therefore hopefully you see yourself in him—and therefore, the ability for greatness in yourself. He wasn’t just a talker of the word, he was a doer of the word as well.

After spending all this time with the character of Dr. King, and then considering your own vocation as an actor—how do you reconcile those two?

By doing films like Selma. I truly believe—well, I know it was a spiritual endeavor for me. Not every film I do is going to be like Selma, but every film I do can be edifying, can be something that points toward I believe to be true: I’m not one to shy away from darkness in movies, as long as there is light. As long as the light overwhelms the darkness, then you’ll find me in the midst of that story. That’s what I aspire to do because I know it to be true in my own life. I don’t think I’ve done a film that doesn’t demonstrate that—the darkness being overwhelmed by the light.

Was there ever a point in your life when you felt that acting became a calling for you—more than just a job or a hobby?

Yes. I think when I felt moving to America was a calling, as opposed to just a byproduct of my ambition. I had a very nice career in the UK, doing TV and theatre predominately and a bit of film. But my wife and I moving here with our two kids at the time felt very much like a calling to Hollywood. I remember praying about it and saying, “God, why would you want us to move to Hollywood? If it’s a mission field, we could go to the middle of nowhere and preach to people who haven’t heard the word of God.”

But I felt God say, “I have some really incredible films for you to make.” That was the moment in which I realized God is interested in using film as a tool—because of what he said to me. So I very much think of what I do as my ministry.


10 Ways to Graciously Say “No” When You Feel Pressured to Say “Yes”

March 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips
Lysa TerkeurstI knew the request was unrealistic. My brain cued all the right signals for my mouth to say no. But somewhere between the sinking feeling in my heart of how this would affect my relationship with this person and the pressure of her expectations for me to agree to her request, I blurted out, “Yes, of course!”I said yes when I absolutely, positively knew I should say no!And I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has this scenario play out in their lives over and over.

I know I’m caught in the rip current of people pleasing when I dread saying yes but feel powerless to say no. I said that during my last webcast and the questions about how to say no started flooding in through Twitter.

People described the deep guilt they experience when they say no. Others admitted to constantly feeling at the mercy of everyone’s requests and, because of not saying no, they were completely worn out. One pastor’s wife admitted to being in a position where she wasn’t sure saying no was even an option for her out of fear of damaging her husband’s ministry.

And another thanked me for giving voice to the struggle many of us have wrestled through silently for years.

I understand because I have and still do wrestle with saying no.

And please understand I’m not advocating that we should always say no. But I am advocating that we should sometimes say no.

Now lean in and let me whisper something I’m trying desperately to teach myself,

No isn’t a cuss word.

It doesn’t have to be hurtful. You will survive and so will they.

Saying no is not a rejection. It’s a necessary protection of your Best Yes answers.

So, here are 10 ways to graciously say no when you feel pressured to say yes:


1. While my heart wants to say yes, yes, yes, the reality of my time makes this a no.

2. I am honored by your request but I’m in a season of refocusing my priorities and have committed not to add anything new right now.

3. After living at an unhealthy breakneck pace for too long, I’m learning to realistically assess my capacity. Though I would love to say yes, the reality of my limitations means I must say no this time.

4. I so appreciate you asking me, but I must be brave and decline this opportunity. Saying no is hard for me but necessary in this season. Thank you for understanding.

5. I’ve promised my family not to add any new commitments to my schedule right now. Thank you for our friendship that allows me to be honest with my realities.


6. Thank you for thinking of me. Your project sounds wonderful. However, as much as I would love to be involved, I can’t give your project the attention it deserves right now.

7. While I would love to connect about your new project, I’ve discovered this is one of those activities I must give up while trying to ____________________ (write my book, start my business, stick to my project, etc.) Saying yes would just enable my unhealthy habit of procrastination. Thank you for understanding and helping me push through to the finish line.

8. There is nothing more that I love than helping others in my field get started. Unfortunately, I get so many requests for this that I’m no longer able to meet in person. So, I’ve created this attached document with my best advice. (Create a standard PDF for instances like this so you only have to type out your advice one time.)

9. While I don’t have time for a lunch appointment, I’d love to connect for a few minutes over the phone. I can talk from 8-8:30am.

10. Thank you so much for caring enough about me to want my involvement. Unfortunately, I’m not able to participate this time. But I’m certainly cheering for your continued success.

For more encouragement to know when to say yes and how to say no, check out my new book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Click here to purchase your copy.


2015 Plugged In Movie Awards: Winners

March 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Family

Announcing the winners of the third annual PLUGGED IN MOVIE AWARDS!PIMA-2015-Kids-blogtopBEST MOVIE FOR KIDS

Nominees: Big Hero 6, Dolphin Tale 2, The LEGO Movie, Muppets Most Wanted, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Plugged In’s Pick: The LEGO Movie
This was a tough choice for us. All the movies here are solidly entertaining. All have some great messages. In the end, it came down to Big Hero 6′s poignant story of a would-be hero and his blow-up robot and LEGO’s tall tale stressing that everyone is awesome … and joyfully unique and therefore valuable. Finally, we felt that the bricks built the best case.

Readers’ Pick: The LEGO Movie
Readers showered praise on the same two films we gravitated toward—and then added a third to mix: How to Train Your Dragon 2. But in the end, not even Baymax could hold back the avalanche of LEGO votes that came pouring in.



Nominees: Belle, The Giver, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Maleficent

Plugged In’s Pick: The Giver
The teen category is where the blockbusters live. Three of the five films here earned at least $240 million at the box office (with Mockingjay – Part 1 standing as 2014′s highest-grossing movie overall). But while The Giver might not have soared into that rarefied financial air, it sure reached great heights when it came to presenting a powerful story. This adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1993 bestseller is loaded with resonant themes involving free will, the preciousness of life and the double-edged power of emotion—and stars a couple of Academy Award winners (Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep) to boot.

Readers’ Pick: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Those with furry feet, rejoice! After The Desolation of Smaug got locked out of the PIMA nominations last year, The Hobbit series made a triumphant return to consideration and was rewarded by readers as the Best Movie for Teens. But just like Bilbo’s steady slog toward the Lonely Mountain, it wasn’t easy: Both The Giver and Mockingjay – Part 1 received strong support, and some readers were aghast that not a single superhero movie made it into contention. Perhaps the numerous write-ins that Captain America: The Winter Soldier garnered will give ol’ Cap some measure of cold comfort.


Nominees: The Hundred-Foot Journey, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Selma, Unbroken

Plugged In’s Pick: Unbroken
Some quibbled that Louis Zamperini’s Christian faith got short shrift in Angelina Jolie’s adaptation of his life (and Laura Hillenbrand’s excellent book). But Louis’ spiritual journey certainly wasn’t all-out ignored in this riveting, resonant and truly inspiring movie. It’s not always an easy to watch: Most of it, after all, takes place in Japanese prison camps, where conditions are harsh and harrowing. We felt, though, that it puts you back on your heels for all the right reasons.

Readers’ Pick: Interstellar
Christopher Nolan’s spiritually tinged space epic struck a powerful chord with our readers, soaring past Into the Woods and Unbroken in the voting. This unquestionably beautiful and, for some, deeply moving fable may wear well as the years go on.



Nominees: God’s Not Dead, Moms’ Night Out, Son of God, The Song, When the Game Stands Tall

Plugged In’s Pick: The Song
Hardly anyone saw this film based loosely on Solomon’s writings in Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. At least not in theaters. It earned just a little more than $1 million. We think the movie world missed out on a real gem. The Song is a resonant, realistic fable for grown-ups that represents perhaps the next step forward in Christian moviemaking.

Readers’ Pick: Moms’ Night Out
Who knew that Christian movies could be funny? Our readers did—or, at least they found it out after watching Moms’ Night Out. This entertaining romp starring recognizable stars Sean Astin, Sarah Drew and Patricia Heaton (not to mention a funny Trace Adkins) rounded up readers’ votes and stormed to a narrow victory over God’s Not Dead. (But note that if we had counted exclamation points as votes, God’s Not Dead would’ve pulled ahead by a nose!)


8 Tricks to Make Yourself Wake up Earlier

March 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement

Stop telling yourself you’re not a morning person. If you want to be your most productive self, it’s time change your habits.

wake_upIt’s frustrating, isn’t it? You want to become an early riser.

You know that waking up early is one of the best ways to be more productive. You know that many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are early risers.

Yet no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to stop hitting snooze.

You don’t have to let productivity slip through your hands forever. Here’s how to finally wake up earlier:

1. Get Up Just One Minute Earlier (Each Day)

Setting your alarm earlier doesn’t always mean you’ll rise earlier. If you find yourself constantly hitting “snooze” until your regular wake-up time, your body probably needs time to adjust.

Instead of a 5 a.m. wake-up right away, set your alarm one minute earlier every second day until you’ve reached your goal.

For example:

Current wake-up time: 6:30 AM
Goal: 5:45 AM
Tomorrow: 6:29
Two days later: 6:28
Another two days later: 6:27

In a month, you’ll wake up 15 minutes earlier and hardly notice. You’ll have made it “so easy you can’t say no.”

You’ll take longer to reach your goal, but taking a few months to build the habit is better than never building it at all.

2. Motivate Yourself by Chasing Small Wins

Waking up at 5 a.m. certainly gives you a lot of extra quiet hours to get thing done, but if your normal wake-up time is 8:30 a.m., you won’t succeed at waking up at 5 a.m. right away.

Consider financial expert Dave Ramsey’s debt-snowball method of repaying the smallest debt first. Some argue that the indebted should focus on debts with the highest interest rate.

This is logical because you’ll save more money, but we’re not motivated by logic.

Dave Ramsey’s method generates small wins, which are motivating. This explains why we can lose weight easier after we’ve lost one pound. Progress encourages us to continue.

Instead of relying on logic and setting a goal of waking up two hours earlier, try half an hour earlier. When you reach that goal, you’ll have generated a small win.

You can re-visit your wake-up time after you’ve met your first goal, but you must walk before you can run.

3. Use Peer Pressure to Wake Up On Time

Set a meeting with other early risers first thing in the morning.
This is effective because:

  1. It creates accountability; you won’t want to let them down.
  2. It uses biological signals; studies have shown that when we have something important to do at a certain time, our bodies will wake us up naturally. That’s why you wake up right before your alarm if the task is important enough.
  3. You’re putting something at stake—your reputation as somebody who follows through.

When your alarm clock is the only thing counting on you to wake up early, a warm bed is more compelling.

4. Manipulate Your Environment to Make Waking Up Easier

You’re far more likely to stick with a habit if you engineer your environment. For example, you’re more likely to exercise if your gym clothes are set out.

Here is how you can engineer your environment to wake up early:

  • Put your alarm clock across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.
  • Set your coffee on a timer so it’s ready when you wake up.
  • Put out a warm robe before bed so you can easily access it when you get out of bed.

5. Troubleshoot Your Faulty Morning Wake-Up Routine

What actions are you taking that cause you to fail? Analyze exactly what you’ve already tried to wake up earlier:

  • What steps have you taken?
  • Why did they fail?
  • What could have been done differently?

If I’ve previously tried setting my alarm but didn’t get out of bed because the house was cold, I could have anticipated that issue and set out a robe and slippers the night before.

Be honest with yourself. Why have you failed before?

6. Give Yourself an Irresistible Reason to Wake Up Early

What’s your vision for your extra time when you master the habit of waking up earlier?

Have you considered the impact of that vision on whether you follow through?

If your morning vision is to run when you wake up, but you don’t like running, you associate early rising with something unpleasant.

Change sticks when it’s associated with something pleasant. Plan to do something you love during your early mornings. When your early-morning plan includes something you’re excited about, that snooze button stops seeing so much action.

Think about it: if your goal doesn’t sound exciting, you’ll always see waking up early as a punishment, which won’t motivate you to jump out of bed when your alarm goes off.

7. Track Your Progress

Jerry Seinfeld had one simple accountability trick up his sleeve: tracking his progress on a calendar.He wanted to write jokes every day, and when he did, he’d mark an “X” on a calendar with the marker, creating a chain after a few days of consistency. The chain motivated Seinfeld to stick with writing.

Just think of how motivating a calendar hanging within eyeshot of your bed would be, the days begging to be crossed off with a big red marker.

8. Brainwash Yourself with a Morning Person’s Mantra

Did you know that your struggle with rising early has a lot to do with self-belief? Convincing yourself that you’re “not a morning person” is a limiting belief.

Changing your self-belief from “I’m not a morning person” to “I’m the type of person who wakes up early” subtly changes your behavior because self-belief is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Waking up early won’t be easy for your first couple of weeks. Your body needs time to adjust to this new routine.

But just think: you’re so close to crazy productivity—to getting projects done while the rest of the world sleeps—with no interruptions or distractions.

And once you get adjusted to your new schedule, you’ll be in the club. You’ll finally know what everyone is talking about.

And you’ll never go back to being “not a morning person.”


Ideas for St. Patrick’s Day

March 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

The middle of March holds a day that’s synonymous with shamrocks and leprechauns.  But few people know the real meaning of this day.  Patrick was actually a young man taken as a slave to Ireland.  While a slave, he embraced his faith in Christ.  After being freed, he returned to Ireland to spread Christianity.

You can read more on  Click here for the story.

image001Rag Wreath

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve put together some ideas to celebrate. We’ve combined a bit of tradition, some fun ideas and yummy recipes just for you.  We found this great rag wreath idea on The Magic of Ordinary Things blog.  She’s got directions on her site.

This would make a great gift for someone along with something containing chocolate and mint!

A Visit From a Leprechaun

Here is a fun idea to do when there are children in the house: as evidence that a leprechaun visited your house in the middle of the night, add a few drops of green food coloring to the milk jug early in the wee hours of the morning on March 17. Then, leave a trail of Lucky charms from the refrigerator leading out a nearby window. Also scatter some chocolate gold coins on the floor near the window. It must be that a leprechaun snuck in the house turning the milk green. But as he left, he spilled some of the coins from the pot of gold found at the end of the rainbow.

Irish stew Serve a Hearty StewThe Irish are well-known for potatoes and a good, hearty stew. Try this slow cooking recipe. It will make the house smell wonderful. Can also be done in a crock pot on high for six hours or low for 10.

Oven Beef Stew

  • 2 lbs eye of round, chunked
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. bag baby carrots
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (canned & drained or fresh)
  • 6 cups red potatoes, chunked (with or without skins)
  • 1- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (petite diced is best)
  • 1- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup minute tapioca
  • 1 t. minced garlic, salt & pepper, to taste

In a Dutch oven or large roaster, place all the veggies & meat. Pour the tomatoes and sauce over the top and sprinkle with the tapioca and spices. Mix well. Cover tightly with lid and bake in a 275 degree oven for 5 hours. Stir and serve. Yum!!

Note: You may substitute a cup of frozen peas or corn for the mushrooms.

Serves 6

Lucky Charms TreatsLucky Charms Treats

Do you love Rice Crispy treats like we do?  And what about Lucky Charms?  If you like both, you’ll love this easy recipe:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 40 Large marshmallows or 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 6 Cups Lucky Charms cereal

Melt butter and marshmallows over low heat. Stir until smooth. When melted, remove from heat and mix in cereal.  Spray a 9×13″ pan with cooking spray, then spray your hands.

Gently press cereal mixture into pan.  Cool before cutting.  Or not, and just go for it!

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day!