Category Archives: Jesus

“Learn more about His desire to know you ”


Jesus is Born!

From the Manger to the CrossAs we celebrate the Gift of Christmas today, let’s remember Him as

…the Son

…the Sacrifice

…the Resurrected Savior

…the Almighty God.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

I pray God’s richest blessings as we celebrate the Gift and the Giver.

Vonda

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Another Christmas Gift (And no, it’s not writing opps!)

From the Manger to the CrossMerry Christmas, writing friends! What a joy to hear Christmas music during this special season, reminding me that yes, an innocent, helpless Baby came, but He grew to be our Sacrifice, and was raised from the dead to be our Savior! Oh, what a Savior!

And since I know everyone’s running around trying to get everything done (and NOBODY is interested in studying writing opps!), I thought I’d share another of my Christmas favorites with you today. Here’s another video I’ve shared the past several years, and I never grow tired of it!

This video was shot several years ago at my daughter’s church, North Point Community Church, as their praise band used iPads and iPhones to deliver a special gift of music to their church family.

It’s my gift to you, and isn’t it a fun, creative way to celebrate this season of joy? But in all the fun and excitement, let’s be sure to remember the greatest Gift of all…the Gift who was also the Giver…the One we celebrate all year long.

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 6:9

I pray God’s blessing as we celebrate the Gift and the Giver,
Vonda

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Writer’s Headlines: Kudos & A Baby Really Did Change Everything

newspapersLet’s start with this month’s kudos!

Congratulations to these Christian Writer’s Den friends who’ve been working hard and making things happen!

1.  Kristi Woods (OK): Praising God for two online published pieces in November on ibelieve.com: Why I Urge My Children Not to Follow Their Hearts and Three Ways to Keep the Spirit of Thanksgiving Alive All Year.

2.  Johnna Stein (GA): Part 1 of my fictional end of WWII story “The Iron Cross”was published
in Cricket Magazine for Kids ages 9-14 this month. Parts 2 & 3 will come out in 2017.

Way to go, Kristi and Johnna. So proud of you for your hard work and accomplishments!

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Your first Christian Writer’s Den Christmas gift

During the Christmas season, it has become my Christian Writer’s Den tradition to post this beautiful video and the life-giving words it proclaims. I’ve done it now for several years, and each time I hear it, I still get chills and my eyes fill with tears.

When Jesus was born, everything was changed.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch the beautiful images from the film, The Nativity, and listen to the words of this powerful song sung by Faith Hill.

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For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:11-14 (KJV)

During this blessed Christmas season, I’m especially thankful a Baby changed everything for me. And He wants to change everything for you, too.

I was lost but now I’m found! Hallelujah!

Christmas blessings as we celebrate the Gift and the Giver,

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Andy Lee

Andy Lee 2016Dear friends, thank you for your grace as my blog posts aren’t on a consistent schedule right now. And thank you, too, for your kind notes, emails, and prayers as my mother continues to heal. Today she will see her new room at the assisted living and tomorrow she officially moves in. She’s so excited!

I’m excited, too, and it’s not only because of Mother’s progress. I’m also excited to share Andy Lee’s new book with you! Andy and I met years ago, I believe it was at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. It’s been a joy to watch her put in the time and attention it takes to be a serious writer, and it’s been a joy to watch her career grow! Today we’re going to focus on her new book, A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called. Don’t you love that title?

Be sure to leave a message for Andy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!

Welcome, Andy. I know you wrote this book in part to inspire and empower women who have been called to ministry. What are some of the inner obstacles women may have to overcome when choosing to answer God’s call for their lives? What obstacles have you had to overcome?

Oh my, so many obstacles! The enemy of our lives is threatened by us, and loves to discourage us in our calling. A huge obstacle is comparison. That’s why I wrote this book. If I compare my speaking, teaching, writing, mothering, cooking (which I’m not a fan), decorating, gardening (which I don’t do), cleaning (which I don’t want to do), etc. to my friends’ and virtual friends’ cooking, writing, speaking, mothering, etc. I’m sunk. Comparison throws a blanket of discouragement over my soul, and I want to quit. I fight comparison by admitting my imperfectness and thanking God for the opportunities He puts in front of me everyday, and I ask for grace to do my best for Him, not for Pinterest or Facebook or the writer of the year award.

For women called to preach and teach and perhaps pastor, there will be many obstacles. All I can say is, “Trust God.” Trust that He will open and close the doors. Go where He leads. Know that He is creative with His calling. It may not, and probably won’t, look like you envisioned when you first knew He was calling you into full time ministry.

Finally, don’t despise small beginnings, the hidden places. God’s economy is not ours, nor is His timing. Live and serve right where you are with the people He has put in your life. They may be smearing jelly all over your television with chubby fingers. Pray for grace. Kiss those fingers. Thank God for today, and use the hidden places, the small beginnings to grow deeper into Him. Practice His Presence. And practice your calling right where you are now.

Powerful truths, Andy! We tend to read Bible characters as flat, unrelatable characters, distant from us because of time and cultural differences. How do you hope your book helps modern women to better connect with the Marys of the Bible?

Oh . . . this is such my heart. Yes, they were from a different culture and spoke a different language, and they lived so long ago, but I am convinced that all of the biblical characters, men and women, dealt with the very same heart issues we do today. We see it easily with Peter and Paul, but for some reason, the “good girl” biblical characters have a holy glow when we read their stories. This detaches them from us which distances God from us in our hearts because we don’t think we could ever serve Jesus as they did. It’s that comparison thing again. But when we find someone who can relate to our struggles, we are no longer threatened by them. Camaraderie encourages us and draws us closer. I also think that once we connect with the Marys’ human hearts, the thousands of years, language, and cultural barriers disappear, and the Bible becomes more real and applicable for today.

I love the way you incorporate the Bible’s original languages, Greek and Hebrew and even Aramaic, into your study of these women. Your book gives great pointers on simple, non-intimidating ways anyone can add this kind of study to our own Bible reading, even without a Bible degree. What does it add to our Bible study when we explore the original languages?A Mary Like Me image

Oh my goodness, it adds LIFE to our Bible study when we study this way. It is incredible. My husband says that my goal is to turn everyone into a Bible nerd. It’s true, but only because digging under our translation has brought so much excitement and joy and life into my walk with God. Nuances have been lost in translation that can be discovered by word-studies, and exploring the ancient language also brings a fresh understanding into familiar scripture. If the Bible seems dull or hard to understand, you’ve got to try studying this way. You’ll never read the Bible the same, and you’ll find the truth of Hebrews 4:12, “The Bible is alive and active . . . .”

You use the Marys’ experiences to address deep topics like grief and mental illness, with stories from your own life and ministry. How can an encounter with the Marys in the Bible help Christian women who are grieving a loss, or wrestling with mental illness?

It goes back to camaraderie. You aren’t alone. We find comfort when someone shares what we’re going through. It also takes out some of the power of the grief or depression when we realize someone else knows our pain. But what I really hope the reader sees in these stories is how Jesus interacted with these grieving, mentally ill women. He was loving, caring, and desired to heal them. He cried with them, and He understood their human heart. What kind of God does that?

You write about dreams and callings and how important they both are as well as how to distinguish between the two. What advice do you give the writer whose dream for his or her book to be published hasn’t happened yet?

Keep being faithful to what He has called you to today. Again, don’t despise the hidden places, the small beginnings. Minister, tell your story, right where you are—on your blog, in the live Facebook video you feel the nudge to do, or over coffee with a neighbor. Seek God’s face daily—that means worship Him intentionally whether you feel like it or not. If there is an ache with the dream to be published, it is a calling from the Lord. Trust His timing. Seek His will for your writing. Go to conferences, blog, and attend critique groups. Be open to all projects He has for you. You may have to set the first book aside to pitch the second and see it in print first. That’s what happened to me. My second book was published before the first, but I view this as a double portion blessing from the Lord. He loves faith. Remember, His economy is not ours, nor His timing. It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. Don’t give up.

Thank you for being with us today, Andy. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next!

And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Andy. You could be next week’s winner!

Bio: Andy Lee loves to teach about Jesus, and she loves to help people dig deep into the Biblical languages. She is a Bible teacher, retreat speaker, blogger, mom to three grown children and a kitty named Hank, and wife to Mike. She’s the author of two books: The Book of Ruth Key Word Bible Study: A 31-Day Journey to Hope and Promise (AMG 2015) and A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called (Leafwood 2016). Andy broadcasts the Bite of Bread on Facebook every morning Monday through Friday at 8:20 ET, and she encourages faith and study on her blog Daily Grace found on her site www.WordsByAndyLee.com. Join Andy on her blog and daily broadcasts to learn how to dig deep to live fully.

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/andy.lee.1069

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Parting Word From The WORD . . . How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

For most of us, we’re thankful to have the recent season of braggadocio, self-focus, and pride behind us. And for those of us who follow Christ, that season has left us even more aware of the condition of American culture and the depth to which we’ve fallen. It’s been a painful realization.

But the song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” sung by Nichole Nordeman, provided a tender balm to my heart yesterday. As I sat alone listening to the clearly-rendered words, I was reminded that regardless of the culture, my Heavenly Father loves me, His Son took my sin, and I can boast in Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

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Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (NIV)

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:31 (NIV)

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

 

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Parting Words From The Words . . . We Want Peace

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

Peace. Oh, how we want it. We want it in our homes, our families, in our relationships, in our churches, our communities. We want peace in our country.

Broken lives, lost jobs, illness, and death surround us.

Will we ever truly have peace? The Bible is clear that worldly peace will not be possible until Jesus, our Prince of Peace, returns.

Does that mean until His return, we must simply endure the strife and unrest of this world?

No. We simply have to look to the Source of peace. Peace will never be found in our government or our money or our family relationships. True peace can only be found in the hearts and minds of those who know the One who establishes peace.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

Regardless of what’s going on in our world, regardless what is going on in American politics, we can have peace. All we have to do is trust in Him Who supplies peace that truly does pass all earthly understanding.

After all, we really do know how the story ends.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . I Was Wrong

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

I was wrong.

For the past few months I’ve considered the condition of our world and have been praying for Jesus to return and end the struggle.

I reflected on these words of Isaiah–words that could have been written about contemporary America–and cried out to the Father for the evil to end.

What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)

However, the more I cried out to the Father for the hardship to end, the more I realized how self-centered my prayer had been. I know beyond a doubt that if God had answered my prayer as requested, my personal struggle would have been over. I would have been in the presence of my Father, face-to-face with the One who died for me and paid the ransom for my sin.

But what about the others?

What about those who haven’t heard? What about my family and friends who haven’t yet accepted the gift of salvation that is offered to them?

What about yours?

That’s when God showed me that my prayer was wrong. My prayer was all about me and how I wanted to escape the world’s troubles.

I was praying for escape, but what He wants is revival.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

His desire is that we experience revival in our hearts, our families, our churches, our country, and our world. He will return on His timetable, not mine.

And we can be sure the timing of His return will be perfect, not one minute early or one minute late.

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)

We should be praying for repentance and revival, not for escape from the world.

Who are you praying for?

Grace and peace,

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Lori Roeleveld

Lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015Friends, I’m so thrilled to have my friend, award-winning author Lori Roeleveld, back at The Christian Writer’s Den. This time she’s sharing her new book, Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life. Lori and I met at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference many years ago and it has been a joy to watch her career skyrocket. Now sit back and enjoy another entertaining interview with Lori Roeleveld . . . if you dare!

And don’t forget to leave a comment for Lori and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! Be sure to come back next week to see if you’re the winner. Now let’s get started!

Lori, your book opens with the line, “We live in a land populated by giants.” Tell us what you mean.

God’s Word tells us there are persistent forces of evil at work in the world. This translates into giant problems of every type that we battle individually, as a church, and as a society. Giants are challenges that leave us feeling small and inadequate. We all face them but biblically, it’s always been the people who believed God over the giants who triumph.

How does the Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale relate to 2 Peter 1:1-10?

People who don’t share our faith often think Christians have traded in everything of worth for a handful of useless beans, much as Jack’s mother felt about his trade. When we view our faith through their eyes, it can affect our attitude toward our own faith. In the fairytale, Jack clung to the beanstalk and discovered his giant-killing potential. As Christians cling to the vine that is Jesus, we, too, discover that we are giant-killers. 2 Peter 1:1-10 lists eight qualities that the world sees as boring (and probably useless) but Peter tells us having these qualities in increasing measure will “keep us from being ineffective and unfruitful in our knowledge of Jesus Christ.” I don’t know about you but that makes me want to plant those beans in my life and prepare for spiritual growth!

Is that why you call those qualities the “eight boring beans of our faith?”

That’s right. Of course, they’re not boring but in the eyes of those who don’t share our faith, they can appear to be. It’s unpopular these days to talk about the value of faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, but Peter promises these hold important keys to effective living. It’s been exciting for me to unpack these qualities and explore how cultivating them, within a relationship with Jesus, increases our ability to defeat countless giants.

You talk a lot about how God loves our smallness and works through it. What do you mean?

One key to facing giants is understanding that God revels in using small people, places, tribes, and churches because through them, He reveals even more of His glory. Isn’t that the point? Not to draw attention to great men, women, tribes, and nations but to draw attention to the Creator God and His plan of redemption.

Where do you get your passion for small churches or people who feel small?Jesus and the Beanstalk

I grew up in a small town in the smallest state, Hope Valley, Rhode Island. There was nothing I wanted more than to be on the adventure with Jesus and I figured it had to be happening somewhere much bigger. What He’s spent a lifetime teaching me is that small places, churches, or ministries can have great impact when people in them obey Jesus.

How have you seen this play out in your life?

Since 2008, I’ve written a blog that for years had a faithful but small following. Still, posts I’ve written have had an impact on writers with larger audiences such as Ann Voskamp and Jim Rubart. Twice I’ve had posts go viral. One has been viewed more than 1.5 million times. In 2015, one week after the murder of nine Christians in Charleston, South Carolina, I was able to mobilize over one thousand believers on three continents to pray for their families, all from my small corner of the world. By my daily numbers, I’m a small-time blogger but God can use me to have a bigger impact than I can even imagine.

In Jesus and the Beanstalk, you tackle the subject of spiritual growth. What do you think are the challenges involved in discussing growing up as a Christian?

When discussing spiritual growth, we have to make frequent callbacks to the truth that we’re all saved by grace and not by works. That being said, God expects us to mature in our faith just as parents expect their children to grow up. We sometime hesitate to discuss spiritual growth because it can lead to comparisons or to a sense that some Christians are “ahead” of others. I address these challenges in Jesus and the Beanstalk and suggest an approach that helps churches and individuals navigate those challenges.

Jesus and the Beanstalk has a unique structure. Can you talk about that?

I wrote the book for individual readers but wanted it to be easy to study in small groups, too. The chapters are short and all have a closing section that includes questions I call “Small Steps toward Slaying Giants.” The first eight chapters explore spiritual growth using Jack and the Beanstalk and 2 Peter 1:1-10. The last eight chapters explore each of the eight qualities that Peter promises will make us effective and fruitful. Those are designed to meditate on one quality a week using five daily readings, one day with suggestions for ways to practice that quality, and one day with no assignment to allow for a day of rest.

Your chapter titles are intriguing: Jurassic Jesus, Why God Loves Empty Prayers, and Thou Shalt Pray like Sheldon Cooper.

I’ve been a Christian since I was a child and am a serious student of Scripture. I also came of age in the seventies and grew up watching sitcoms and late night TV so my quirky perspective comes through in the titles and in the humor of this book. I’ve wrapped my love of the Lord, my passion for His church, and my desire to inspire spiritual growth in an unconventional package. I like putting a fresh perspective on ancient truth.

That leads us to your tagline. You’re known as the “Disturber of Hobbits.” What is a hobbit and why do you want to disturb them?

Hobbits are the primary characters in Tolkiens’ Lord of the Ring series. They are creatures who love home, routine, comforts, and meals on time. Adventures are suspect to hobbits because they “make one late for dinner.” I can relate to that. I like to be comfortable and safe. Jesus adventures upset my applecart in that respect but I’ve come to love being on the adventure with Him despite my hobbit tendencies. My passion is to invite and incite other comfortable Christians into the Jesus adventure.

Al and Lori with AwardThank you, Lori. I always look forward to reading your books! Friends, that does it for another great interview. Be sure to leave a message and come back next week to see if you’re the winner of Lori’s book!

Bio: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored an unsettling blog since 2009; a pursuit that eventually resulted in her first book, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus). Since then, two more books have been released: The Red Pen Redemption and her latest, Jesus and the Beanstalk. Her blog, LoriRoeleveld.com, was voted Top 100 Christian Blogs by RedeemingGod.com and has enjoyed over 1.5 million views. Lori lives in Hope Valley, RI.Though she has degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies, Lori learned the most important things from studying her Bible in life’s trenches. You’ll find her at her website www.LoriRoeleveld.com. If not, know she’s off somewhere slaying dragons. Not available for children’s parties.

 

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . The Same Jesus

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

Let’s face it, things change, and statistics show that things are changing faster than ever before. Technology has brought an entirely new timetable for the word, new. In many cases, it’s the favorite word of the younger generations.

Nobody wants the same anymore. I admit, I like getting new things, too. But I sometimes miss the dependability and consistency of the same.

A few weeks ago, my pastor at Renovation Church, Jeremy Havlin, was continuing his series, “You Are the Light.” As a church on mission “to build disciples to go make disciples,” we must not only have a real relationship with Jesus, but we must have a heart for the lost. Here are some quotable quotes that I just can’t get out of my mind:

  • Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable; He came to make us whole.
  • The foundation of our belief isn’t a teaching; it’s an encounter with Jesus.
  • We want the God who loves and forgives, but not the God who expects something from us.
  • Follow Jesus, not tradition.
  • Faith must be placed in who Jesus is, not who we expect Him to be.
  • We want our circumstances changed, but He came to change our hearts.
  • How we receive people reveals how we receive the Lord.

And the most powerful one of all:

  • The same Jesus who changed me wants to change others.

The same Jesus. Not the new and improved Jesus or the disposable, throw away one. Not the one who sways with the culture. But our Savior, Jesus, who was and is and is to come.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)

” . . . Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

 

Go, and make disciples.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,

Vonda

 

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . My Time, My Way, & My Best Interest

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

If everybody would just do things my way, life would be perfect. Right? It’s my way or the highway–or so I thought. I get stuff done in my time, my way, and with my best interest by figuring out just when is my time when now doesn’t seem to be working; what is my way when all paths seem foggy; and what is my best interest when I can’t see the future.

With all the clamor, noise, and jockeying for stuff, I easily lose my bearings. The center of who I am and the focus of what I’m about becomes distorted. Discouragement lurks in the shadows to claim all that I am. When things aren’t working out my way or in my time or even in my best interests, maybe I’ve lost the meaning of the word “my” and to whom it refers.

In Old Testament times, Moses experienced times like these and God sent him into the wilderness to be with the sheep. The clamor of Egypt, gone. The noise of people, diminished. The stuff related to position, eradicated. One day Moses went even further into the wilderness. “He led the flock far into the wilderness” (Ex. 3:1). Silence. Hoof step. Occasional bleat. His mind quiet, focused on one thing—find grazing land.

In the quietness, God called. Maybe Moses’ thoughts weren’t as stilled as they needed to be. God used a spectacular display to catch his attention and speak to him—a burning bush that wouldn’t burn up. In amazement, Moses heard God say what his time, his way, and his best interest was. It wasn’t about Moses at all. It was about God’s plan, God’s time, way and glory.

How often I get wrapped up in thinking my life is about me. Like Moses, if I take time to quiet myself in the presence of God, I learn his plan, his way, and his time. It’s then that I can sync my life with his grand purpose for me, for others, and for God’s glory.

The word “my” refers to God, not me. He knows better than I about time, ways, and what’s best.

Now, where can I find some quiet sheep-grazing land?

Bio: Robin Bryce is a speaker and author. She founded iGETitLIFE to inspire, empower, and challenge Robin Bryce Headshotpeople to grow close to God and develop into the creation God intended. In her twenty-five plus years of ministry, she has held many positions from a spiritual emphasis director, ministry leader, women’s ministry developer, church leadership trainer, and event speaker to a weekly Bible teacher and pastor’s wife. She develops events and programs with humor, wisdom and insight for various venues including businesses, communities and churches. Robin inspires growth and encouragement for leaders, couples and women with her conversational, down-home style. Robin developed the iGETitLIFE Capture Me! programs for small churches and communities that they might have a quality event on their home turf. She is a favorite for business seminars, training events, conferences, church leadership conferences, women’s events, ministry wives seminars, marriage conferences, MOPS, and home school workshops. Her appearances include a Blog Talk Radio Interview, a feature in the Community News local newspaper, and a Caribbean cruise where among other topics, she and her pastor-husband presented a humorous message on marriage.

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