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Meet the Artist: Anita Renfroe PDF Print E-mail
Written by Production   
Friday, 11 June 2010 01:37 PM EDT

With what she calls "estrogen-flavored" comedy, Anita Renfroe has made a name for herself, from her take-off of the "William Tell Overture" to appearances on ABC's Good Morning America to her best-selling DVDs and books. This month she has another DVD—Big Ol' Sweet Iced Tea—releasing from her label, Blue Bonnet Hills, and Word Distribution.


Where does the title to your new DVD come from?

"We saw on a restaurant down in South Florida that had this big door on it that had sweet iced tea, which is one of our favorite things as Southerners. ... So we came home from that trip to Florida and I found an old door at a salvage shop and I tried to recreate that door from down there. ... So we were trying to think of a title for the DVD and we were thinking, well, what's really important to our family, and of course, our core value is sweet tea. So we went and took a picture with the door that I painted 10 years ago."


So it was filmed in a historic theater?

"Yes, it was right outside of Marietta, Ga., in a really tiny town called Acworth—it's a suburb of a suburb. I love to tape, when I do my DVD projects, in the Atlanta area because quite frankly I just love to sleep in my own bed the night before."


What do your fans have to look forward to on this DVD?

"Lots of new comedy. ... Quite frankly, it's all from my life. The great thing about real life and your comedy coming from real life is that there's constantly a wealth of new material. ... So this time there's stuff about secrets of Miss America, I watched a documentary on that and it was so hilarious. ... I'm a grandmother, so there is stuff on there about that. A couple new parodies that I think people are going to enjoy—we have a couple out there already going viral."


What does Beyoncé think of the parody of her song "Single Ladies"?

"I would hope she would think it's hilarious. No one can touch her in the dance moves, but you know, I'm Baptist and basically all the dance moves have been bred out of us genetically, so yeah, I hope she would just enjoy it for the comedy."


What inspires you?

"My kids are my No. 1 source of comedy. My husband is unintentionally funny. ... What tickles me is just life in general."


For an extended audio version of this interview, visit the specialty blogs at

Meet the Artist: Mike Nawrocki PDF Print E-mail
Written by Production   
Friday, 11 June 2010 01:32 PM EDT

Nawrocki_MikeCo-creator of VeggieTales and now vice president of creative development for Big Idea, Mike Nawrocki oversaw the production of this month's release, Sweetpea Beauty—A Girl After God's Own Heart, the first-ever VeggieTales episode just for girls.


How did the idea of a girls-only episode come about?

When General Manager Leslie Ferrell, offered a woman's perspective and said, "Let's make a show about inner beauty." To be honest, it's not the first thing a development team of three guys would think of. But we embraced the challenge and, being fathers of daughters ourselves, created a couple of stories that we would love for our own daughters to watch.


What did you do differently to reach this niche audience?

We didn't really change much of what we usually do in that, with any story, you want to try to write from a place of experience and truth. You need to speak to your audience with the story you are telling—whatever the niche. As male writers, we needed to rely on the input and feedback of our wives, daughters and female co-workers.


Isn't the message of Sweetpea one that boys need to hear, too?

Absolutely. Boys are also under a tremendous amount of pressure in our culture to "look good." The message that God looks at the heart and not on our outward appearance is also important for boys. As Petunia says (in closing), "Anyone can learn a thing or two from a princess story, Larry."


Will there be other targeted episodes, and if so, on what kind of topics?

We're currently working on an episode where we are partnering with World Vision on a lesson in serving others.


How did Nichole Nordeman come to write a song for Sweetpea?

She has some huge fans at Big Idea. Because of how she has addressed the topic of true beauty in the past, both personally and professionally, we felt that her unique perspective as a singer-songwriter—in addition to her role as a mother of two small children and her love of VeggieTales—would be a great fit. We were so thrilled when she agreed to write a song for the show and were absolutely floored when we heard it. "Beautiful For Me" is a wonderful and moving song that captures the lesson of Sweetpea Beauty perfectly.


How is today's VeggieTales audience different from the one in your beginning in the early 1990s?

People are much more visually sophisticated than they were at the birth of 3-D computer animation. Twenty years ago if it was computer animated, it was cool. VeggieTales benefited from that early wave of enthusiasm. As I go back and watch the shows, I notice the stories and lessons hold up well, but they look very rudimentary. Visually, we've had to improve as the art form has improved, and our audience's expectations have grown.


Will there be another full-length VeggieTales movie?

We have a script for The Bob and Larry Movie, which tells the story of how Bob and Larry met, that we would love to make into a movie when the time is right.


For an extended audio version of this interview, visit the specialty blogs at

CATEGORY KEY - Journals: a versatile gift idea PDF Print E-mail
Written by Carlton Garborg   
Thursday, 10 June 2010 01:47 PM EDT

In this day of Facebook and Twitter, people may wonder whether journaling is losing relevance. But this generation is writing more than any other since the invention of the pen. Even in an electronic age, journal use is growing in popularity.

When your customers are looking for personal gifts that are great for any occasion, fit every budget and help the recipients draw closer to God, there may be nothing more appropriate to suggest than a journal. Retailers who establish a well-stocked journal section help undecided shoppers find ideal and encouraging personal gifts for friends and loved ones—or to keep for themselves.

Journals provide a range of benefits as varied as those who pour their thoughts, hopes and aspirations into them. Content-driven journals featuring Scriptures and inspirational writings allow people to slow down and grow closer to God. Through encouraging and thought-provoking reflections, they provide a place for the owners to nurture their spirits.

Making a dynamic visual statement with a journal display will increase sales. Create a destination area for journals, a designated space that attracts the eye of customers and encourages multiple sales, or capitalize on limited space while maximizing profitability with a compact floor display that allows prominent presentation of journals in a high-impact area.

Cross-merchandising opportunities for journals abound. Feature titles based on popular Christian themes with books on the same topic to enhance sales. Round out gift tables with themed journals that complement products from other locations in the store. Create a nook with a popular Bible-verse theme and add journals to the selection. Or simply merchandise next to pens, stationery and other gift items.

Many journal themes are designed to correspond with holiday and promotional events throughout the year. Journals by popular teen authors are good, back-to-school impulse purchases. Those that focus on blessings enjoy stronger sales at Thanksgiving, while others with promises and new beginnings have extra appeal for the New Year. Love-themed journals make heartfelt gifts for Valentine's Day, of course. These are great additions to seasonal-product endcaps.

To provide cross-merchandising ideas and maximize display opportunities, we have developed a line of presentation options for stores, ranging from table and shelf displays to a free-standing acrylic gift center. Learn more at


Carlton Garborg is president of Ellie Claire.

Close up with Chris Tiegreen PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 10 June 2010 01:28 PM EDT

ChrisTiegreenLatest project: Unburdened: The Secret to Letting God Carry the Things That Weigh You Down, SaltRiver (Tyndale House Publishers).

Resides in: Atlanta.

Currently reading: Bandits, Prophets & Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus by Richard Horsley and The Supernatural Ways of Royalty by Kris Vallotton and Bill Johnson.

Some authors write to teach themselves; was that the case with Unburdened? "Yes there's a whole lot of that in there. In fact, that's one way you can interpret that, that this is a serious message to myself. … I think an awful lot of Christians struggle with this, struggle with being burdened."

Is it really possible in this life to give our burdens to God and walk free in "weightless living"? "It does seem impossible. At the same time, in Scripture it tells us … 'Don't worry about your life. Look at the lilies in the field, look at the birds in the sky.' I've got to believe that (Jesus) didn't tell us to do something that is impossible, so it's an ideal, but I don't know if I really know anyone who is attained that yet. But I do know some people who seem to live much more carefree and much more weightlessly than other people."

If believers would really learn this, it would be quite an example to the world, don't you think? "I do, because I think it's one of the answers that people are looking for. The gospel is good news, and a lot of the world looks at us and thinks, 'Well, they don't really live in a way that's different than me. They have the same worries and anxieties that I have.' And again it's not to say that we have become unrealistic or idealized people who don't struggle with life, but I think there is a certain weightlessness that if we lived that way, the world would look at us and go, 'Wow, there really is a God who can carry their burdens. They really do have a source of help that I don't know about.' "

How can God become what you call our "stress-free occupation"? "The more preoccupied we become with God, the less these things really weigh on us. We can try to carry all our burdens ourselves, or we can turn our focus to God, be fully preoccupied with Him and still carry those burdens, but if we are focused on Him, then the stress of those other burdens starts to dissipate. We realize how big He is, how caring He is, how compassionate He is."

What can we learn from Jesus' example? "He went through days seeing opportunities that God put before Him and somehow discerned those from the obligations that God did not put on Him, and I think that's what we need to try to do. We take on a lot onto ourselves that we feel is our obligation that is not necessarily from God. And we miss a lot of opportunities because we are so focused on our agenda or so focused on our schedule we miss a lot of opportunities that He puts before because we are carrying all these things we weren't designed to carry."

How have you, personally, learned to yield your troubles to God? "It's been a process and I certainly don't write this book as someone who has mastered it. … I think we all have massive trust issues with God. We trust Him in certain areas, but then there's those really deep desires in our hearts, there's really important relationships or dreams that we have that we have a really hard time of letting go and trusting Him. I've learned to ask myself that question, 'What is it about this situation that I don't trust God with?' Even asking that question has helped me kind of take a deep breath, let the muscles loosen in my neck and assume a position of trust. Little by little I think we can do that, and that's how it's working for me."

'Open hearts' needed for successful remarriage PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 10 June 2010 12:27 PM EDT

Second-time-around couples may be wiser and even more determined than before to make things work when they wed, but if the divorce statistics are grim for first-timers, they are even more sobering among those tying the knot again.

HeartofRemarriageThat concern prompted father-and-son counselors Gary and Greg Smalley to write The Heart of Remarriage (978-0-830-74677-4, $22.99, Regal Books), releasing this month. The pair surveyed hundreds of remarried couples to learn more about the particular challenges faced by those for a second time, or more.

The Smalleys concluded that the real issues are not about practicalities like step-parenting—though they are addressed with hands-on advice and ideas—so much as emotional baggage and blind spots from previous relationships.

"In many remarriages, couples get together thinking that their hearts are wide open to each other and will stay that way," they write. "In reality ... the doors are actually closed."

Addressing the need for someone to have an open heart and to provide emotional safety for others they know in successful relationships, the writers acknowledge that much of the first portion of their book is applicable to anyone. They look at how best one can heal from past hurts and establish healthy boundaries.

In the second part of the 256-page hardcover book, they get down to some of the emotional tangles specific to remarriage—unresolved issues with ex-spouses, feelings of guilt and anger, and the different tugs and pulls in blended families. They emphasize the need for the couple's relationship to take prime place if the new stepfamily is to survive and thrive.

Each chapter includes brief Heart Healer ideas and suggestions, Heart Monitor questions for reflection and discussion and Heart Protector advice. The book ends with a series of relationship quizzes to identify areas on which individuals may need to focus.

A publicity campaign with secular and faith media—print, television, radio and Web—in addition to online promotions will support the release.

For more information, go to To order, call 800-4-Gospel.

'Blind Side' couple shares lessons on generosity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 10 June 2010 12:22 PM EDT

The behind-the-scenes principles that guide the film couple's life


InAHeartbeatOscar-winning film The Blind Side told the story of black NFL player Michael Oher, who was adopted by white parents Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy and their two children. Now, in the new Henry Holt book, In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Joyful Giving, the Tuohys share the lessons they have learned in giving, not only by adopting Michael, but also in ways as simple as tithing and being present to the needs around them

Leigh Anne, an interior designer, decided early on that her mission was to raise children who would become "cheerful givers." Sean, who grew up poor but now owns a large number of fast-food franchises, said he believed that one day he could provide a home that would be "a place of miracles."

"When you give because you want to see the results or you give because of the results or you give hoping for a result, that means you're giving with some sort of an agenda," Sean Tuohy said. "And I don't think that's what (the Bible) means by 'cheerful giver.' "

Along with the cheerful giving principle from Scripture, the couple lives by what they term the Popcorn Theory.

"If you throw all the kernels to the bottom of the pan and it starts heating up, well, all those kernels look alike, but those kernels have needs and wants you don't really know," Sean said. "The one that really needs it the worst will pop up and hit you right in the face."

Michael was transformed because of the family's generosity as they opened their hearts to him, and they still work with inner-city kids, but the Tuohys don't think every giver has to do something grand.

"Yes, we adopted a 16-year-old kid that obviously had needs, but that's no better or no greater than somebody who looks at the little red bucket at Christmastime and puts quarters in it," Sean said. "They do it with a cheerful heart and it has the same effect in God's eyes."

Giving 10% of their income to God has also become important to the family.

"I had always gone to church and given, but it was never something that I understood exactly what I was doing, I just thought I was supposed to do it," Sean said. "The premise that it wasn't that you're giving what's left over, but you're giving your first tenth had a huge impact on me.

"Then the biggest impact was that if you're not doing it with a cheerful heart, then God really doesn't want it, so you really need to get your heart right. That was the big change in our family and certainly in my heart."

All three Tuohy children—Collins, Sean Jr. and Michael—contribute to the book, as do actors from The Blind Side, Tim McGraw and Sandra Bullock, who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for The Blind Side. The couple still maintains a relationship with the stars.

"We couldn't be more happy with the people that portrayed us (in the movie)," Sean said, adding, "My wife and Sandy talk all the time. There is no reason before this movie that they would have ever had this relationship with us, but it was probably the other way around."

The Tuohys are not holding themselves up as an example to the detriment of others. Rather, Sean said: "We're not trying to teach anybody a lesson. I think what we are trying to tell people with this book is that we have just as many warts as anybody else, we just happen to have our names tagged to the characters of the movie, but that doesn't excuse us nor does it excuse you from really finding that place in your heart to do stuff for others."

For more information on the 288-page hardcover book, visit To order, call 888-330-8477.

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