"We're the biggest band you've never heard of," laments a member of Hillsong in their new movie Hillsong Let Hope Rise.
The movie takes a behind the scenes look at the band members that make up Hillsong, how they got started and where they are now.
The movie promotes itself as a worship experience and invites you to sing along. I think I knew one song out of the whole movie so that did not happen for me. Which isn't surprising at all when you consider that Hillsong is a group clearly meant to attract young people and only young people. If you are older than 50 and are a traditionalist you simply won't like it.
In the movie we get to see the band members perform and we learn about their personal lives and struggles on the road. I was surprised that a group with so many albums, and that seemingly tours all the time, makes no money (as they claimed in the movie) to support themselves. A worker is worthy of payment and these young people certainly put their all into their ministry and if they aren't getting paid they should be. And that is one of the most confusing aspects about this documentary. Where does all the money go if they aren't getting paid?
All of the band members seem to be very close to one another and encourage each other in the faith and while it is clear they love the Lord and enjoy leading their audiences to Him in adoration, the movie didn't really speak to me and I found myself wishing it was over when I was about 15 minutes in. It was a so-so documentary about the popularity of a Christian group, but not something I would pay to go and see. I give it 2 stars as it jumped all over the place and was at times very confusing.
Yet she believes the horse is meant for her and she is so dogmatic in her belief that God has called her to ride this horse and to pursue a calling in show-jumping, that she soon finds others who are willing to take a chance on her.
Her dreams of making it to the Olympics become a reality but during a training exhibition she suffers a near-fatal accident and is left in a coma and paralyzed. Her horse is given to another rider and he goes on to win a gold medal at the Olympics. But Debi is not a quitter, with months of rehabilitation she is able to walk again and sets her sights once again on the Olympics. But tragedy seems to stalk this young lady and it is only through her faith in God and her belief that He has called her to ride in the first place, that she is able to keep positive and persevere.
If this weren't a true story you would think this was one of those made up sappy Hollywood movies. But it isn't and that's what makes this movie so remarkable. It's true! A Sunday Horse shows what can happen with faith and a little perseverance.
Unfortunately, while the faith aspect was played up a lot at the beginning of the movie it was not the central focus of the movie, and so I was somewhat disappointed that this was not continued throughout, building to a climax or a crisis of faith in the main character. However, with a stellar cast, (William Shatner, Ving Rhames and Linda Hamilton also star), and the knowledge beforehand that the story was true, I still enjoyed the movie and recommend it with the caution that there is some bad language.
Movie has been provided courtesy of Mongrel Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc
For instance, actor Ray Wise who played Satan in the CW show Reaper, was the lawyer for the ACLU. No matter how hard I tried, every time he smiled I thought he was evil. Perhaps that was intentional on the part of the producers. I don't know, but if this were portrayed realistically it would have been the ACLU representing the Christian teacher and not the other way around. The myth that the ACLU doesn't represent Christians, is unfortunately promoted in this movie and adds to the growing paranoia that evangelical Christians have today. This "us" versus "them" mentality was evident throughout the entire movie. The message therefore came across as, "If you aren't a Christian then you are evil." In fact, all those who were against Christians were portrayed as evil, unless they were searching for God of course.
Then we have three other stories mingled in with the main one, which made no sense to me on why they were there. I didn't find out until after the movie that these were characters from the first movie. Clearly, they were not memorable characters because I saw the first movie and didn't remember any of them accept for Pastor Dave who was only in this movie to set up the third one - yes there will be a God's Not Dead 3 and I'm not sure how I feel about that.
While I deeply appreciate and understand what the producers and writers were trying to get at with this movie - that Christians are being persecuted in this country - it was far too unrealistic for my tastes. The fact that I felt no empathy for the main character at all, convinced me that character development is what this movie really lacked. For example, we find out that Brooke (the girl who asked the "Jesus" question) has lost her brother in some kind of an accident six months prior, but it's never explained. It's never explained why her parents aren't in mourning, or why they never knew their son was a Christian or why they are atheists. FYI - they are the ones involved in the lawsuit against the teacher. Why? Because all non-believers are out to get Christians. There is simply no other explanation given in this movie other than that one. We also have no character development for Grace. Why is she alone with her grandfather? What's her backstory? We are never told. Again, if character development had been considered in this movie I might have been more invested in it.
So, what did I like about this movie? I liked the presentation of having a relationship with Jesus. The character of Grace made it clear that it wasn't just a belief in God, it was a real relationship. Something I don't think many non-Christians understand. I also liked some of the courtroom drama. The well presented arguments that Jesus is an historical figure were very well done, with a guest spot by author Lee Strobel who wrote The Case for Christ. In addition, the subject matter is sure to create discussions in the hopes that Christians will learn to stand up for their faith. Indeed the final scenes involving Pastor Dave (based on an actual event), will leave the Christian pondering what they would do if they ever had to make a choice between obeying the government or obeying God. That was one of the things I did like very much about God's Not Dead 2. The Christians all stood firm when tested and did not waver in their belief that God is not Dead, or that Jesus is real enough that a person can have a relationship with Him. And so the movie in a rather lacklustre way makes its point.
A couple of weeks ago I had an invitation from Graf-Martin Communications and Sony Pictures Entertainment to review the movie Miracles from Heaven. When it originally came out I didn't have a chance to see the movie and so I was glad to have this opportunity to see it.
I am always skeptical about Christian movies. It seemed like for a very long time they were over the top schmaltzy and it was all I could do to keep my eyes from rolling when I was watching them. Not so with Miracles from Heaven starring Jennifer Garner.
Based on the true story of Annabel Beam. who was diagnosed with an incurable rare digestive disorder that left her in constant pain, with a swollen stomach and forced to take her meals through a feeding tube. For months, her mother Christy, played by Jennifer Garner, is frantic to find out why her daughter is constantly throwing up. Determined to find an answer, she refuses to leave the hospital until someone does something. She gets her answer and then is told the only doctor who could help her was in Boston (they were in Texas) but he wouldn't be able to see her for nine months. Unfortunately, Annabel didn't have nine months so Christy goes to the Boston hospital and pleads with the nurse to please find a way for the doctor to see her daughter. She is told to leave and that it was impossible for the doctor to see her. But God works in wonderful ways and an opening becomes available. You'll see how at the end of the movie.
I don't think I've ever cried so much watching a movie! Garner was brilliant as was the little girl who played Annabel (Kylie Rogers). Of course, being a Christian film the subject of faith and God was tackled and it was expertly done. NO schmaltz - just honest, heartfelt truths that we all go through when faced with the impossible. And what happens when life hits us hard and we have lost all hope? Our faith either crumbles or we dig in and hang on to God for dear life. Christy's husband trusted in God that everything would be alright, but Christy had trouble believing that. So the movie examines our faith when we are tested and it shows us what happens when God answers in miraculous ways.
And boy does He answer in miraculous ways. When Annabel is climbing a tree with her sister she falls 30 ft. inside the hollowed out tree and survives. Weeks later her disease is gone. Today, Annabel Beam who cried out to her mother that she wanted to die and go to heaven so she wouldn't be in pain anymore is now a healthy seventh grader.
Five stars for this movie. Buy it for your church! Grab a copy for your own library and make sure you have a box of tissues handy.
Movie has been provided courtesy of Sony Entertainment Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc
But in the meantime, Merrideth has her eyes on her dream house and together she and Brett use it to travel back to 1842 to see it through the eyes of Charles Dickens when he visited their little town.
I loved this book and the concept. Being able to see things through the eyes of someone in the past is very intriguing. If you like time-travel, history, and romance you will like this book. The author has done an excellent job of creating a plausible story line for Dickens and what it was like when he went to America. I hope there is more in this series because I want to see what else happens between Merrideth and Brett. I was so disappointed when the story ended. Not because of how it ended, but because there was nothing left to read. Especially since I was in tears by the end. Kudos to the author! This one is a keeper.
In the midst of adjusting to her new life, she meets a young Hebrew girl named Shira, who has pity on her and helps her adjust to her new life. When terrifying plagues start to strike Egypt Kiya flees with the Hebrews and begins a new journey away from her many gods and finds the one true God instead.
This book has a little bit of everything in it - romance, intrigue, danger and of course the history of the Hebrews flight from Egypt under the guidance of Moses. Connilyn Cossette has made the Bible come to life and presents a believable story of the Exodus from Egypt that even Jewish readers would appreciate. If you like Biblical Fiction Counted with the Stars will not disappoint you. I highly recommend it.
Whether I am writing for adults or children, my focus is to leave the reader not only with a nugget of knowledge, but that they are in some way wiser, stronger in character and more able to make wise decisions. I believe humor helps us learn more easily so you will find I use it liberally!
How many books have you written?
I’ve written 3 for adults and about 10 for children...3 of them are published.
What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
Editing is tedious for me...but the marketing aspects of writing bewilder and nearly overwhelm me. So, I am very thankful for my friend and publisher. She keeps me on task and grounded!
Do you ever get discouraged?
Yes, but not with the writing as much as with my energy level which impacts how much I can do on any given day.
How do you overcome it?
I’ve learned that the fastest way to come out of a physical or mental slump is to be gracious and give myself permission to recover at whatever pace my body sets for me. I’ve also learned that growing joy in relationships kick-starts energy.
What inspired you to write this book?
My husband urged me to write a sequel to the first book in the Sassy Pants series. He argued that she was so naughty in the first book that I should give her the opportunity to redeem herself. But I didn’t have another story in me. I even asked God’s help in convincing him there were no more stories, and that was when God downloaded the rest of the series. So...here we are!
Do you have any other books in the works?
Yes, there is an adult devotional that is in process and at least 3 more children’s books in this series.
Do you talk to your characters?
Yes! Of course, that’s how I find out what is going on with them. Some of the characters in the novels I’ve not yet written will step out periodically and ask if I’m ready to start. I hate to send them back, but I have to finish publishing these children’s stories. Then I will be free to begin the research.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
When you have an urge from God, an inspiration or idea, start writing as fast as you can. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling—fix that later when the inspiration is spent. Then go to someone whom you trust “with the things precious to you” and have them read it. Ask for an honest reaction/critique. You can become so involved with what you write—you know what you mean—that you can miss important transitions and places that need further clarification. You can make connections in your mind that you have not put down on paper, which can leave readers scratching their heads. Another writer friend can point these places out for you.
Thank you for stopping by Carol!
Thank you again for hosting me!
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When I first set out to become a published author I never thought about self-publishing. I was of the belief that if you wanted to be taken seriously then you needed to find a reputable publisher, submit your manuscript and hope for the best. But I had just come from a different background entirely. With over 30 years in music (both secular and Christian) I knew plenty about the music industry, but nothing about the publishing industry. I had no idea where to start. I had already written one book that had languished on my shelf for years and was starting on my third. It wasn't until a good friend urged me to get the first one published that I started looking at how the publishing industry worked and what a writer was expected to do in order to get a manuscript on the road to publication.
By the time I got around to seriously sending it off to someone, I found myself overwhelmed by what was needed. I was so "green" at what was required that I almost felt like giving up. Songwriting was so much easier. You write the song, you copyright it, you list it with SOCAN (of which you are a member) who send your royalties to you and you're done (at least that's how it was in the 70's & 80's). Back then, I also had an agent and an entertainment lawyer (because a music producer tried to steal one of my songs that I wrote for the Lord and tried to turn it into a beer commercial - that's another story). My lawyer advised me to publish my music under my own publishing company name if I wanted to be sure of control, which he then registered. So I didn't even have to go through a publisher. I guess you could say I started self-publishing before it was common. The first time I received a royalty cheque, or heard that someone else had recorded a song I wrote that was played on the radio, I was over the moon. So I thought getting a book published would be just as easy. I was so wrong!
Suddenly, I was confronted with new challenges like query letters, synopses and proposals. All of them made me groan aloud with frustration and wished I'd just stuck to songwriting. The thought of going through my novel and writing a chapter by chapter synopsis took all the fun out of writing for me. And don't get me started on the proposal! The second writer's conference I attended (which I also learned were vital to a writer) provided me with new knowledge and determination to get that synopsis and proposal done. At the time I was ready to submit something it wasn't done online. It was by snail mail. So there were months and sometimes more months of waiting. On top of that most publishers only accepted queries from literary agents. My agent was strictly in the music/acting business and didn't have the time to devote to learning about the publishing business. So I was on my own.
As I researched what I needed to do I came across two services that helped in making the submission process a little less painful (keep in mind these are for Christian books only) - The Writer's Edge and Christian Manuscript Submissions. Unfortunately, I ran across a few questions that once again made me groan aloud.
Why did you write this book?
Now here is where I got stumped because I had learned at a writer's conference never to tell a publisher/agent that you wrote your book because God told you to. That is not professional they said and sounds amateurish. Well . . . the thing is, my story would not have been written otherwise. A series of life events brought me to a place where I clearly felt God directing me on what to write. This did not feel odd to me at all because this is how I had worked when writing songs. The Holy Spirit would direct me and I would follow. So, in truth I did not know how to answer that question.
What qualifies you to write this book? What are your credentials?
Again, nothing qualified me at all accept my willingness to obey God. My credentials at that point in time only applied to my music ministry and had nothing to do with the type of book I was writing. Yes, I had taken some writing courses. Yes, I was comfortable in front of a large group of people singing and speaking. No, I did not have a PhD behind my name. No, I was not a counsellor and no I did not have anything to offer besides my book and a few songs that at that point were really dated. So, at this point I'm starting to get slightly discouraged.
Do you have a platform?
A what? Next question.
What is your marketing plan?
My marketing plan? You're kidding me right? Isn't that the job of the publisher?
Can anyone say - Wow! What a newbie?
Suffice it to say, I received a lot of rejection letters. So I began to wonder and question if God really wanted me to pursue this "writing" thing. He couldn't be serious could He? He didn't really think that someone like me, who just wrote songs, could actually pick up a pen and start writing a story, did He? I needed assurance and confirmation that I could write and that it was something I should pursue. So I submitted the first chapter of a new novel I was working on for critique, at a writer's conference. The result of that critique had me floating on a cloud for the rest of the conference. A publisher got a look at it and liked it so much he asked me to send him a proposal. NO! NOT A PROPOSAL! That was like asking me to drink my own blood. Since the book was nowhere near being done and I had no idea where it was going, I politely declined. Yes, I know - what an idiot! But I had my confirmation from the Lord and that was all I was looking for at the time.
To this day, I have still not finished that novel. God took me in a different direction and led me to write different things. And in the interim I have learned many things about the publishing industry and have (I believe) grown as a writer and as a Christian. Although as far as grammar and the "correct" way of doing things in the literary world goes I am still woefully in need of help. I write like I talk and that isn't going to change anytime soon. Thank the Lord for editors.
So did I ever get published by a real publisher? Yes. I have had articles published and I have had short stories published by Random House for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I have been paid for book reviews by a newspaper who actually employed me (yeah that one surprised me) and I have self-published three books, all of which have won awards. Will I ever pursue traditional publishing? If the Lord wills it I'm sure it will happen. Right now however, I am content to self-publish my own books because I enjoy the process. I like the creative aspect of it from finding the cover to formatting the inside. The only thing I don't like is the marketing aspect and from what I hear all authors, both self-published and traditionally published have to market their own books. There is no way around that. There are pros and cons to both ways of publication, but if you don't know what you are doing and if you don't want to wait years for your book to be published (which can and does happen with traditional publishing) you might consider self-publishing.
However, if you do decide to take the self-published route you need to be aware that it is very time-consuming. You are no longer "just" a writer. Now you are the publisher. It is your job to do all the things a traditional publisher would do, from designing the front and back cover of your book, to formatting the inside, to sending out press releases, marketing your book and making it available "everywhere books are sold." Your time as a writer will be drastically reduced and you may even start to wonder if you will ever write again. In addition, traditional authors may look down their noses at you, thinking you didn't "pay your dues" and took the easy way out to publishing. Let me be clear on this - self-publishing is NOT the easy way. It is hard, time-consuming, expensive (or can be if you aren't careful) and not for those who aren't committed to making it a success.
Today, the market is gutted with self-published books and Amazon with their CreateSpace program and Smashwords with theirs has only made it easier to self-publish. That said, my suggestion to you is this - before you even think about self-publishing, go through the submission process with a traditional publisher. Write that query letter. Get that synopsis and proposal done. Submit it and see what happens. There is nothing quite like receiving an email that says, "Your story/book has been accepted for publication."
Ultimately, there are pros and cons to both traditional publishing and self-publishing, but it is up to you as to how much time, money and effort you want to put into the publishing process. Here are just a few pros and cons to both aspects of publishing:
Traditional Publishing Pros:
Traditional Publishing Cons:
If you are convinced self-publishing is the way to go, then put everything you can into it. Don't do a half-hearted job which results in a poor cover and badly edited book, because if you do and people read your book, it will be the last book of yours they will ever read.
When I first started writing I was in high school. My Theatre Arts teacher would have us write short stories, poems, or plays for homework almost every night. You would think that Theatre Arts would not involve writing for homework, but I got my best ideas from that teacher. At first I hated it! I couldn't think of anything to write at all. But my teacher knew that would happen. Many of us were stumped for ideas and we asked why we had to do this when we were doing the same thing in our English class. We came to realize of course, that it was all about letting those "creative juices" flow - to get to know your characters, to understand why events in a story had a certain rhythm, and how to show those emotions, not tell. Our stories (even poems we wrote) would be acted out the next day in class. We then got to see how believable our writing and subsequently, our acting was. Suffice it to say - I gave up acting as a career choice! But, I had no idea at the time how important writing would become in my life. While I started out as a songwriter, those years of instruction from my teacher would eventually come to mind when I sat down to write a story, article or even a Bible Study. Unknowingly, her demand for a new work every night of the week, would force me to consistently work at establishing a pattern of behaviour (or work ethic) that I have followed all my life, both as a singer and as a writer. These patterns or goals can, I believe, help writers reach their full potential.
HOW TO REACH YOUR FULL POTENTIAL: