Christian Retailing

Pastor finds ‘renewed passion’ after son’s death Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 03:57 PM America/New_York

When Steve and Sarah Berger’s 19-year-old son, Josiah, died as a result of a car accident, the Bergers became more focused than ever on heaven, with Steve launching into a fresh study on the subject. When they learned Josiah had committed to be an organ donor, demonstrating his eternal perspective and compassion, their thoughts about how to live on Earth changed dramatically.

BetweenHeavenAndEarthSteve Berger shares their story in Between Heaven and Earth: Finding Hope, Courage, and Passion Through a Fresh Vision of Heaven (9780764211676, $14.99), which Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group) releases this month.

“Josiah’s passing lit a fire under me to teach about heaven with a renewed passion,” writes Berger, pastor of the 4,000-member Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, Tenn.

He believes that many Christians consider heaven only after a traumatic event and that many hold misconceptions about their eternal home.

In the book, Berger discusses what believers can expect in heaven—or not. He refers to heaven as the believer’s “real home” and adds: “You were not made for this place; you were made for heaven.”

Berger also explains how the apostle Paul’s life is an example of being heavenly minded and doing earthly good. 

“Paul’s heart was passionately fixed on heaven while his hand was purposefully working to produce fruit,” he writes. 

Berger calls this approach “Heart in heaven, hand in the harvest” and says this is the “hard-pressed living” Paul refers to in Phil. 1:3-24.

To have one’s hand in the harvest is to spread the good news, disciple fellow Christians and send those willing to evangelize and serve. Berger details the obstacles to this lifestyle and the tools needed for victory.

To order, call Baker Publishing Group at 800-877-2665.

Close Up: Leonard Sweet Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 03:58 PM America/New_York

TheWellPlayedLifeLatest project: The Well-Played Life: Why Pleasing God Doesn’t Have To Be Such Hard WorkLeonardSweet ($15.99, 9781414373621, Tyndale Momentum/Tyndale House

What is your goal for this book? The church has rewritten the words of Jesus from “Come, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” to “Come, all you weary and heavy laden and I will give you more work.” To become a disciple of Jesus is almost to be sentenced to hard labor, so far removed are we from the Hebrew understanding of life as Shabbat Shalom. It’s time to trade in our hard hats or pinstripes for a sombrero—with some confetti thrown in.

Why do you refer to play as a gift from God? When we first meet God in the Bible, God is playing in the dirt, making mud pies. Creation is not God at work, but God at play. Play is the oxygen for creativity, which sparks imagination, which ignites innovation, which combusts in paradigm shifts and sometimes detonates revolutions. My friend Todd Fadel says it best: “Play is your secret weapon.” In our creation story, we don’t get “labor” until the curse and banishment from the Garden. We have made life and worship into a work zone of human activity, rather than the playground of the Spirit who enlivens and enspirits us.

What is “Godplay”? Godplay is a fundamental approach to life based not on work and worry, but on God’s invitation for us to skip and dance all the way home. The march to Zion is not toil and travail, but a dance of Shabbat and Shalom by which we “enter into the joy of the Lord.” Godplay is living your life in such a way that you don’t work toward the pleasure and acceptance of God, but live from it and play in it. Any time you approach life with the joy of a child, it’s Godplay. Any time you praise and worship God, it’s Godplay. Any time missional living ramifies relationally in an incarnational way, it’s Godplay. The world needs more play, more God, more Godplay and Godplayers, not more work and more workers.

You write, “The quality of life depends on the quality of our play.” Would you elaborate? The greatest artistry, beauty and excellence come from a play paradigm, not a work paradigm. The provisional title for this book was You Don’t Work a Violin. If you want to live a life of beauty, truth and goodness, you need to learn how to “play” your life. We are all artists, but our “medium” is our life; our canvas is our total being and identity. Our primary brush is the play-strokes of the soul. 

What else would help Christian retailers promote The Well-Played Life? The implications of a theology of play ramify in every direction of life. It has major implications for our relationships and marriages, where we tend to try to “work it out” rather than “play it through.” It even revolutionizes the whole world of education. We need an education system designed to find and nourish all talents, not just some talents. Every child deserves discovery. And this is best done through play, not standardized testing or rigid curriculum planning.

Fiction File March 2013 Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 04:01 PM America/New_York

BodieBrockThoeneTakeThisCupLATEST PROJECT: Take This Cup (9780310335986, $14.99, March 25).

PUBLISHER: Zondervan

This is the second book in “The Jerusalem Chronicles” series. How does Take This Cup follow on from the first title, When Jesus Wept?  All of the “Jerusalem Chronicles” are written in first person, in form as if drawn from a diary or a journal. Each (When Jesus Wept, Take This Cup and the just completed Behold the Man) focuses on a character and his or her encounter with Jesus. Just as happens in real life, some events will overlap between stories, and some will be unique to each story. Throughout our first-century stories of the life of Jesus, we have been marching toward the Passion Week events. Each story advances that timeline, and Take This Cup moves readers up to the night of the Last Supper.

What research went into creating Take This Cup?  We use Scripture accounts as the outline of events. From there, as in all of the first-century accounts, our research is divided between learning the historical details and finding all the prophetic references to events in Jesus’ life so readers can “connect the dots.”

What are the main factual portions of this book?  All the geographical elements (like caravan routes) and archaeological details and historical references are as accurate as we can possibly make them. Scripture references may be paraphrased, but they are true to the spirit and intent of the originals. Our operating guide is “Do no violence to Scripture.” 

Who is Nehemiah and what type of character is he?  Nehemiah is a child, and as such, he brings a unique perspective and unique needs. Besides that, he is the child of the Jewish families in exile and gives readers the chance to learn about those circumstances.

What must Nehemiah do in this novel?  Nehemiah has two tasks. One is to survive a difficult journey to join his grandparents in Jerusalem. The other is a spiritual task. He is to examine the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah and, if found to be valid, to deliver something of importance to Jesus.

What are some of the obstacles he faces along the way?  All the dangers of a first-century caravan trip that covered hundreds of miles: robbers, thirst, the first-century equivalent of terrorists. Plus, as soon as Nehemiah is aligned with Jesus, he is also in danger from Jesus’ opponents: Romans, temple authorities, Herod and the Pharisees.

Were there any specific challenges or rewards in writing this story from a boy’s perspective?  Bodie has had lots of experience writing believable and entertaining children [characters in their books], from Yacov in The Gates of Zion through the true story of Tommy and Bobby Tucker in the “Shiloh [Legacy]” books, to the Jerusalem sparrows. Nehemiah is just the latest in a long line of child protagonists.

What do you hope readers take away from reading Take This Cup?  As always, we want readers of our work to be driven back to Scripture, not only to verify what we write, but also to dig deeper and learn more. Besides that, Take This Cup emphasizes that all of us, no matter how ill-equipped we may feel, are selected by God to do great things!

You mentioned the next book in “The Jerusalem Chronicles” series. When will it be released, and what other stories are you planning to work on?  Behold the Man is due out in 2015. We will be continuing more first-century accounts of those who met and interacted with Jesus.


New Fiction Coming in April

The Fearful Gates, Ross Lawhead (Thomas Nelson)

Visible Threat, Janice Cantore (Tyndale House Publishers)

What Follows After, Dan Walsh (Revell/Baker Publishing Group)

Retailer Bio: Beth Johnson Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 04:09 PM America/New_York

BethJohnsonHow long in Christian retail: About seven years.

How you came to work in Christian retail: I homeschooled our daughter until she was in eighth grade when I put her in private school. I needed more income. I prayed that I could find a job without having to go through the long process of a job search. A few days later a friend at my church told me that the Christian bookstore in Monroe was looking for part-time help. I knew that was the answer to my prayers. I had just moved to Monroe a year prior and I didn’t even know there was a Christian bookstore in Monroe until that day.

First job of any kind and your age then: Babysitting when I was a teenager. In ministry, I had worked for my church full time until our children were born and then part-time in preschool ministry when my children were young. I also started the media ministry in my church and worked there until my son was born.

Are you living your dream job? I love my job because of the ministry part of it.

Describe yourself in three words: Honest, sincere and happy.

Hobbies: Gardening, crosswords and keeping up with politics. 

Favorite place: I enjoy being home working in the garden.

Favorite verse: “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20, HCSB).

Mission in life: My first goal was to raise Christian children. Now that that’s been fulfilled, I seek to witness to people any way that I can and that’s why working at the bookstore offers me a lot of opportunities to do that.

Mentor or role model: I have a favorite pastor-author, David Platt. He’s truly anointed and he really humbles me.

Share a recent idea that has worked in your store. The owner is always open to new ideas. Most recently we’ve added a $5 section (books, CDs, DVDs) to our store. It has been very successful. Another area that we’ve been very successful in is jewelry and scarves.  

How about an idea that hasn’t worked? Facebook worked a while, but now it doesn’t seem to reach out to as many people as it used to.

Pet peeve in retail: Bad customer service. I had quite an episode in a big-box store recently. 

How can our readers pray for you? That God will give us wisdom as we try to improve ourselves at our store and that we can minister to the needs of our community. 

What’s the best way to reach you online? Christian Art and Book Shop on Facebook.

Beth Johnson is a sales associate for Christian Art & Book Shop in Monroe, Ga., on the east side of Atlanta.

Business Bio: Richard Hauhuth Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 04:35 PM America/New_York

RichardHauhuthHow long in the Christian products industry: 17 years.

How you first came to work in the industry:  I was good friends with a gentleman who was opening a store; we went to church together. I have a background in retail [mostly shoes], and we partnered together to start and grow the store.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A baseball player.

Describe yourself in three words: Quiet, loyal, helpful.

Favorite hobby: It’s a tie between golf and fishing.

Favorite place: Mountains, to anywhere outside that’s quiet.

Mission in life: To do what God wants me to do—whatever that is.

Favorite verse: “… make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you” (1 Thess. 4:11, NIV).

What motivates you to go to work each day? My background—12 years as a Christian retailer. My motivation is just knowing that I can go in and help retailers succeed. It’s so much more difficult now than it was when I first started back in the mid-’90s.

What work issue keeps you up at night? Not having enough time to do all the things that I’d like to do, although I sleep pretty well.

Who do you consider your mentor in business? Larry Haege, president of Innovative. His background experience in the industry as well as from a business standpoint, marketing and sales.

Pet peeve in business: Not doing something you’ve committed to do.

Share a recent success story you’ve experienced in business: Just being able to help the retailers when they call. There’s a lot of times where a retailer will call who needs help with something, [so] just being able to help them get through, whether it’s a business issue, a personal issue—that to me is, over all of the work things, why we’re here. That spells success for me. 

What would people find surprising about your job? Probably the difficulty of working with 250 different retailers in different parts of the country and trying to provide services, tools, promotions that fit everyone’s needs.

What is one thing the Christian products industry can do to improve its business? From a publisher’s standpoint, to provide the best resources possible; from a retailer’s standpoint, continue to focus on being a light in the community, customer service and being there.

How can our readers pray for you? That God continues to direct me and that I receive that and understand what He’s directing me to do.


Richard Hauhuth, director of online sales and marketing at Innovative in Greensboro, N.C., managed a Christian retail store, The Master’s Loft in Winston-Salem, N.C., from 1997 to 2009.

VeggieTales characters set sights on final frontier Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 04:46 PM America/New_York

Latest episode will appeal to moms and dads trying to teach children to share and care

VeggiesinSpaceBoldly going where no Veggie has gone before, Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato hit light speed in the newest Veggie Tales release, Veggies in Space: The Fennel Frontier (820413137397, $14.95), arriving in Christian stores March 8 and at general market outlets March 11. 

The episode follows the crew of the USS Applepies, including Captain Cuke (Larry) and Mr. Spork (Bob), as they confront the selfish Luntar the Looter, a space pirate. It also includes the appearance of a new character, Ziggy, as the crew learns a valuable lesson about sharing and caring for one another. 

Mike Nawrocki, the voice of Larry and co-founder and executive vice president of Big Idea Entertainment, told Christian Retailing that the lesson of the DVD is based on Luke 3:11. 

“It’s a topic a lot of moms find helpful, the biblical perspective on sharing,” he said. “We wanted to incorporate it in the show. With each show, we offer a nugget of truth and this one is, ‘When you have enough to share, you have enough to spare.’ ”

 The episode features plenty of laughs, as the VeggieTales characters parody science-fiction epics such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Veggies in Space also features special music from Christian artist Jamie Grace, who delivers the closing credits song, “Enough to Share,” and “Asteroid Cowboys,” an addition to VeggieTales’ “Silly Songs.”

“It’s so much fun to have these songs that appear within the show and doing a fun pop version of those songs,” Nawrocki said. 

In addition to sing-along features for the songs, the DVD includes other bonus features such as a “Build your own spaceship” activity, interactive Veggie trivia and a discussion guide for parents to use with their little ones. There is also a behind-the-scenes video with Jamie Grace.

A few months ago, the VeggieTales brand celebrated 20 years of delivering biblically based fun for the young and young at heart. The original Veggie DVD, Where Is God When I’m Scared?, released in December 1993. 

“It really is amazing,” Nawrocki said. “We felt there was a big need to create shows that were very entertaining and helped parents pass along values to their children. We had no idea that it would last 20 years. We wanted to incorporate biblical values in our shows, remind kids that God made them special and that God loves them very much.”

Nawrocki said it’s a new experience now meeting fans who watched videos as children who are now introducing their own kids to Bob and Larry. 

“It’s really neat for me to see that next generation,” he said. “We just take this responsibility very seriously and look forward to the next generation.” 

While Big Idea continues to look ahead with more DVD releases such as the upcoming Celery Night Fever and Beauty and the Beat, Nawrocki is “hopeful” to do another theatrical release one day in the vein of Jonah or The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, and he’s grateful for VeggieTales supporters for creating a lasting legacy of fun, biblical lessons. 

“Every time we tell a story, we try to tell it well to incorporate the message, wrap the story around with great music,” he said. “The passion we have for storytelling has helped us last all these years. And we’re very thankful for our fans.”

To order Veggies in Space, call Word Distribution at 800-876-WORD (9673).