Play With Fire: Interview with Author Bianca Juarez Olthoff

This summer has been an amazing one for new book releases. I got my hands on a pre-released copy of Play With Fire and was both encouraged and inspired by author Bianca Juarez Oltoff’s story of transformation by fire. We all experience trials and endure circumstances we wish we could escape. Bianca went through her own fires and discovered refinement, passion and a loving God in the midst of the flames. If you missed my full review of the book, you can check it out here.

Last week I spoke with Bianca about her debut book Play With Fire. We also talked about the A21 Campaign, Propel Women and of course Adele. "Hello..........."

Check it out below and be sure and order your copy of Play With Fire today while it's hot off the press!

Bianca, you travel the world teaching and speaking for the A21 Campaign and for Propel Women. What do you love the most about your work and what are you looking forward to in the months and year ahead?

I’m really excited because this is the year we have had the most amount of rescues in A21 history. I am excited to know we aren’t slowing down, we are taking ground. And that comes with a cost. There are a lot of sacrifices our team has made but we are very excited about the men, women and children we get to rescue out of slavery!  We have a lot of great things on the horizon with Propel Women. We have launched curriculum that can be used in a church, home or office space. We have a couple groups from google who are meeting. We have a group from Chick-fil-A who meet online. They post a video online and all get together on google hang out to discuss the topics on hand. What we’re really excited about is there are so many great Bible resources for women, but what about the practical side of things? There’s always a layer of Biblical foundation of course, but we really want to go after the heart of what are some of the felt needs women are facing today? And so our first curriculum on personal leadership, is dealing with issues regarding balance, prayer life, conflict, personal dreams, goals, etc. Those are topics people are really excited to open up and discuss. We just released our 3rd edition of the curriculum last week. We also have several events coming up on the horizon this upcoming year. It’s definitely a full schedule.

What prompted you to write Play With Fire and what is your hope for all who read it?

I wrote Play With Fire out of my desire to see those who feel their faith is nothing but an ember, to see that ember erupt into a huge flame. And for those who feel as if they are living a half-baked Christian life believing and thinking there is more to life that God has for them but just not knowing what that is. My hope is that this book gets into the hands of people who feel like they want the Holy Spirit to radically change their life and that is what this is birthed out of. Fire is symbolic of danger but fire can also be symbolic of transformation and that’s worth going after. I want people to know that trials and tribulations that seem like they are going to destroy them are actually the places where they discover the presence of God.

In Play With Fire you share about a couple individuals from your childhood and young adulthood who had profound influence on you and helped shape your perspective of God. What are some of the markers of a Godly mentor or influencer?

I think there is a level of humility and accepting and acknowledging what you don’t know that I’m attracted to. The people who have made the most profound influence on my life have been people who just simply found a place to discover who Jesus is, just the tip of who Jesus is, who God is. I’m attracted to humility and hunger. Those are the two values I look for in people I want to follow and learn from.

How can we encourage loved ones who feel as if they are walking through their fire today?

I love when we come alongside and just be in the pain with people. Sometimes we don’t need a Biblical prescription, sometimes we just need community. Like when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he didn’t turn to Peter, James and John and say, please quote the Torah to me. He said please pray with me. Stay awake with me. I think sometimes we underestimate the value of the ministry of just being present and standing with people during trials and tribulations. And then the other thing is, once they know their friends are willing to stand with them, look for those windows to hold onto the promises of God. There are times you remain silent and just bear the pain and there are other times we speak boldly and declare the promises of God. We remind them of who God has called them to be. We remind them of the plans God has for them and we remind them that our God is faithful. So presence and promises are powerful in standing with someone who is going through the fire.

In Play With Fire you talk about worship in the wilderness. You describe a turning point when your prayers changed from crying about your circumstances to crying out to God, the One who could meet you in your circumstances. How important was this shift for discovering fierce faith, unquenchable passion and a life-giving God?

Throughout scripture there is power in crying out. We see it in the life of David and we see Paul cry out to God as Abba father. We see this phrase of crying out in Isaiah and throughout Jeremiah. I think it’s healthy to cry out to God but we have to be careful our crying doesn’t become complaining. And when we are going through these proverbial deserts or seasons, it’s very easy to cry out but if there isn’t response, crying can easily turn into complaining. When we are angry with God and angry at the situation we become bitter buddies, just frustrated with life and we start doubting the goodness of God like the Israelites did. They let their forgetfulness affect their faithfulness. They forgot their faithful God took them out of slavery. They forgot their faithful God promised them there is a promised land for them. And when we go through those seasons, we have got to talk ourselves straight. Talk ourselves into believing, wait a minute, I know who I am, I know whose I am, I know what I am called to, and nothing is going to thwart this. I have to hold onto the promises of God because even though this is not a good situation, I know that all things work for good. And I may not see it today, I may not see it tomorrow, I may not see it this side of heaven but I know that God is going to redeem this situation.

What are you currently reading and what music do you have on repeat right now?

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From Waste to Opportunity: A Discovery Made at Disneyland

"When they [the Sanhedrin] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13

Can you picture the scene above unfolding? Peter and John, two ordinary dudes, find themselves standing before prestigious, educated, professional court officials because they had just been part of something extraordinary and unbelievable. Actually, the healing of a man's legs was simply one of many extraordinary happenings taking place leading up to their moment in court.

The events recorded in the book of Acts are wild to say the least. Pop some popcorn, get settled in your comfy chair and read it for yourself. It’s incredible! Only God could design the supernatural and extraordinary events in the beginning of Acts which led to the advance of the Good News of Jesus` resurrection around the world. I can’t help but think the events in the first few chapters of Acts were Peter and John’s lightbulb moments when all the puzzling stories Jesus told and the wild things He did began to click and make sense.

Standing before the court that day, I imagine their hair was a mess and their eyes were blood shot from both lack of sleep and from a fresh, Spirit filled awakening in their souls.

What exactly does one look like who has “been with Jesus?”

Jesus spent most of his time with the poor, the outcasts, the down and out and the suffering. I imagine his hands were often dirty and his hair may have had the wind-blown, all natural look going on. Jesus was the dark skinned, poor guy from a struggling, low income family and neighborhood with a bad reputation. I imagine Jesus` disciples were an unpolished, wild looking bunch too.

What does it look like to be recognized as someone who has “been with Jesus?”

When I think of people of who look like they have been with Jesus I think of my friends Camille and Esther who willingly moved into an area of conflict in Eastern Congo to love and empower the suffering Congolese people.

I think of my friend Beth who, for close to 3 years has consistently spent her time, in order to be present and provide a listening ear and a smile for the dozens of neglected people residing in a local motel.

I think of those who tear down walls intended to divide us by race, nationality, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, etc. like Dr. John Perkins, LaTasha Morrison, Shane Claiborne, the Hatmakers, my friends Adriana, Meredith, Monica and Melany.

Play with Fire

Play with Fire is the debut book by dynamic speaker and Bible teacher

Justice

When I chose the name Justice for my son, it was for one simple purpose. I believe the name means what ought to be. The world is clearly not what it ought to be. 

When God created the world, He did so with purpose, intention & design. As you read over the narrative of Gen 1 and 2, you may pick up on the theme God first created a space and then He intentionally filled the space (i.e., he first created sky and later birds to fly in the sky). When God created Adam, He called him "very good."  God's design was for He and Adam to exist in the company of each other in a vibrant community.

Crashing into Jesus

Enter Biblical Story:

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arm, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16


Pre-motherhood interpretation of the passage above:

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The Great Commission Summit 2016: On Transforming Culture

Readers, are you ready for this? I hope so because it is so good and inspiring and well, challenging too. But oh so good. Read on.


If you live in America, i.e., the west (for those in CA, please read, the wild, wild west because I know you just imagined Will Smith wearing cowboy get-up while rapping “wild, wild, west” as did I and this is why I like you), the following is a short list of why we struggle to transform culture.

 

 

  1. We live in an individualistic society vs. a community oriented one.
  2. We have comfort and the ability to retreat to a dynamic subculture, free from pain and suffering.
  3. We tend to have a higher than what ought to be dependence on structure, laws, rights and self.
  4. We have a pretty low threshold for pain. The more affluent we become, the lower the threshold sails downward.

Why would I say such things to you?! This is not a downer blog; I pinky swear in the air to you right now.


I simply do not have the insight for the aforementioned list of our western woes, not to mention I am an American from the wild, wild, west specifically, so my perspective is limited here. I heard the statements above coming flying straight from the mouth of activist Prashan De Visser, President and founder of Global Unites at The Great Commission Summit 2016. Global Unites is a very large and very radical youth movement of peacemakers around the world. Their vision is to inspire, connect and equip youth to transform global societies through movements that promote hope, nonviolence and reconciliation.


Say what? Yes, youth, as in teens, babes, little lambs, littles, and the like are transforming global societies by promoting hope, nonviolence and reconciliation. (Side note: MLKJ was a mere 25 years old when he began his ministry of nonviolence and reconciliation. Respect and encourage your youths friends.).


Prashan is a humble and kind man, so naturally he did not leave us only with what hinders the west from participating in transforming culture and reconciliation work, he also reminded us of a different way of life; a way reflective of the Kingdom of God through His followers wherein we become active participants in reconciliation work so desperately needed in our world today.


  1. We were created for community. It is who we are. Resist the urge to withdraw, stand back and isolate. Rather, let’s shift our thinking from what’s in it for me to how might this benefit and care for those around me.
  2. From sea to shining sea, America is full of retreat like and feel gated communities of heaven on earth, and 10 min down the road people are experiencing hell.
  3. Our dependence ought only to be on God. He is our plan A, B and C.
  4. Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. Embrace pain knowing and believing God’s Spirit will be our helper through it. He will help us overcome it.
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Doing Less Equals Being More

I love to write. And it takes a lot of time to write.  I roughly have 18,000 full-time jobs. I’m a full-time wife, full-time mom, and full-time home maker with a full-time job! It goes without saying (yet here I am saying it; that’s how smart I am you lucky reader you), I struggle to find the time to wash my hair thoroughly let alone to write a blog. Most days something has to give - either for lack of time or lack of energy - and unfortunately for me in this season, it's the writing I've had to hang up like a vintage 1989 telephone.

Learning about God from my Son: On Easter

For God so loved the world

I have been known to say things like,


“I love coffee.”


“I love cupcakes.”


“I love road trips.”


Becoming mom to my son Justice has taught me an ocean full about God’s love for me and for all His creation; as in, all of the world and all of the peoples in the world.


This is actually why, this blog series, “Learning About God from My Son” exists. I wanted a place to share what I’m learning about God in the hopes it might help you to know and believe of His incredible love more and more and be a place Justice could one day look back on and read about his crazy momma’s love for him because of God’s faithfulness to me.

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On Raising Royalty

One of the more quoted movies in my household is Coming to America. You remember the movie. Eddie Murphy plays an African prince who has servants upon servants at his feet, ready and willing to do anything and everything for him. On the night of the Prince’s 21st birthday, he is presented with a wife who has been groomed her entire life to serve him. The Prince wants a real relationship; not a mechanical, robotic one so he heads off to America in search of life outside the walls of his African Kingdom. If you haven't seen Coming to America, stop reading this and watch it right now.


My son Justice is a prince.

 

That's right; he is royalty!

 

With a last name like Ngangnang, you might be wondering if he is an actual African prince. He is African and as funny as Eddie Murphy, but my son's royalty isn't rooted in his Cameroonian heritage. It runs much deeper and wider.

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About
I drink coffee, read books, and travel. I’ve been able to drink coffee and discuss books with friends all over the world, simply because someone built a bridge and I made it east of the Mississippi and beyond. For this reason, I love bridges.


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