With Lisa Samson
What inspired this tale of conflict among believers?
Is this something you have experienced firsthand?
Lisa Samson: I think we all have
experienced conflict, if not between separate churches
then within our own church. This tale is what I
truly believe God impressed upon my heart to write.
As the youngest of three children, I assumed the role
of peacemaker in my sometimes-volatile family. Conflict
cuts me to the quick. Especially between believers.
The bible is pretty clear on how to deal with conflict
and yet, time after time, it's easier to retreat to a
corner, licking our wounds over
a perceived wrong done to us (half the time we took it
wrong) instead of having the courage to find out what
really happened and then offer grace. And I surely
include myself in that "we!"
GGBC: Is any character
particularly like you? Which do you like best or enjoy
Lisa Samson: Poppy Fraser, the main character
is somewhat like me in her outlook on modern Christianity,
her honesty about herself and life, her tendency to be
hard on herself. The circumstances of her life are
completely fictitious. I'm not a pastor's wife, I've never
owned a house by a golf course and the only Volvo I ever
owned was twenty years old and needed to be junked after
we had it only a year! The character I liked
the best was Mildred La Rue, the older African-American
woman. Miss Mildred is the wise woman of the story,
and I must say, if I could zap one of the Church Ladies
into real world existence, it would be Miss Mildred.
And from the letters I get, my readers feel the same way.
Miss Mildred tells it like it is...in love...and always
with compassion. She is comfortable with who she
is and uses what God has given her to its fullest.
Your characters show Christians
at their worst-as well as at their best. Why were behavioral
and religious clashes important to your story?
Lisa Samson: Any good story needs conflict and
as The Church Ladies had a broader purpose of showing
the need for cross-cultural and cross denominational Christian
unity (are we not all in the body of Christ?) that conflict
needed to arise from within the church itself. The
fact is, we can do better. We can live an abundant
life of grace and forgiveness, modeled by our Savior Jesus
Christ, and we can serve Him together. People are
different, with unique gifts to give. God loves
that and so should we.
GGBC: Is there a
"proper" way to address someone's grief? How
do the different women approach the grieving mother in
Lisa Samson: I don't think there is one proper
way to address someone's grief. The only improper
way to address it is to ignore it. I know when someone
has experienced a loss it's easy to think, "Well,
maybe they don't want to be reminded. Maybe I should
keep my mouth shut and just talk about the weather."
Believe me, they're already thinking about their loss
even at that moment you see them, because they're wondering
what you're going to do. Reach out in your own unique
I lost my mother two months ago after a four year long
decline with Polycystic Kidney Disease. It's been
hard as my family and I moved in with her to be her caretakers.
We miss her terribly and wish her last year could have
been different. She was so sick it broke our hearts.
But the love and support of friends and family has made
all the difference. As I said to a lady at church
this past Sunday, "God uses His own to take care
of His own." What a privilege we have of ministering
His healing grace at times like these. And as with any
situation, pray, pray, pray. In The Church Ladies,
each woman goes about helping the grieving woman in her
Poppy, the main character, retreats for a while, then
gives it a trial go by heading over with some coffee.
Soon she's doing housework and "taking care of things
that needed to be taken care of." That's love in action.
Miss Mildred, in turn, takes care of Poppy and hosts a
prayer meeting to pray for the grieving woman whose lost
her child. And can that woman pray! The women
that become members of the weekly Prayer group pray together,
and when the grieving woman finally is able to join them,
they take action in trying to right the wrong that was
done to this woman's son, to give grace, to work together.
Helping someone through grief takes muscle sometimes!
But what a holy act. And don't be fooled into thinking
the unbelieving world doesn't notice when we give grace!
They sure do!
Do you see Christian unity today growing or
declining? What do you hope The Church
Ladies accomplishes toward helping believers seek common
Lisa Samson: Well, when I first started writing
The Church Ladies, I felt it was declining.
I didn't look at a Barna study or read Christianity Today,
I looked inside my heart. The idea was born about
five years ago. At that time I went to church because
I felt I had to and I really wasn't reaching out.
But I'm finding that the more I reach out and become aware
of the world around me, the more I'm seeing there are
Christians out there working together to further God's
Kingdom. Yet there are millions who are like I was.
Don't get me wrong, I still have far to go. But I hope
The Church Ladies can do for other women what the
writing of it did for me. It helped me see the common
I was always so proud of my theological beliefs. Growing
up I went to a church where the various doctrines were
thoroughly taught, all the isms, the millennial and such.
And the more I grow in my faith (notice I didn't say I
was actually getting any smarter), the more I realize
that what the world needs is the gospel. Simply
put, the world needs Jesus. He is our common ground.
His death, burial and resurrection. It's so simple!
So beautiful. And we cloud the glory and breathtaking
beauty of God's grace and sacrifice it on the altars of
systematic theology, eschatology and all those other ologies
du jour. We equate Christ's sacrifice and the markings
of faith not by the love and forgiveness we show to others
but by the music we listen to, the clothes we wear.
I don't know about you, but I've got "Christian
Radar." You know what I mean, don't you? We
spot each other sometimes. We look for the clues.
And it's usually not a fish on a car that tells us.
It's a certain smile, a kindness, a way of feeling you
matter to them and they matter to you. I believe
God gave us that for a reason, to unify us, to enable
the team to know who's
GGBC: Do you
have friends in different denominations? Of different
races or ethnic groups? Do your differences ever polarize
you? Why or why not?
Lisa Samson: I have friends in many different
denominations. Episcopal, Catholic, Presbyterian,
Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical Free, Christian Church,
Wesleyan even! You name it. And yes, I have
friends of different races and ethnic groups. I
LOVE being with them because I learn something new.
The lady I carpool with is Korean. I'd never really
known anybody Korean before I met Gloria and we've had
some truly meaningful conversations centered around...guess
who? The Lord! Amen.
Paul makes it clear, "There is neither Jew nor Greek,
bond or free, but we have all been make to drink in one
body." One body. That's pretty clear.
My prayer partner for my writing ministry is an older
African-American woman in my church. To be honest,
even labeling her as anything other than my friend and
sister in Christ makes me uncomfortable, but to answer
to question, our differences have never polarized us at
all. We support each other. We need each other.
And we love each other, and that love is founded upon
the Savior who died for us all. I may be naive and
overly optimistic, but I truly believe that if we look
at another believer and see Jesus first, a lot of these
difference will eventually be overcome.
It saddens me deeply that the most segregated time of
the week is the morning worship hour on Sunday mornings.
I would love to see churches of a mostly singular racial
makeup take on sister churches of a different racial makeup
and meet and fellowship on a regular basis. Imagine
what we all have to offer each other. Imagine what
we all could learn from one another! Amen.
GGBC: How is prayer
a vital tool in the resurrection of Mount Oak as a truly
Lisa Samson: It is the beginning
of it all. I think any major movement of the Holy
Spirit is bathed in prayer. Prayer enables us have
that primary, singular Focus I've
talked about so frequently in this interview. We
are all praying to the same Holy God, the same loving
God, and when we join hearts, and Gather
around the throne of grace together, of one accord, the
Holy Spirit blesses that.
of the women in your book are non-believers. How do they
begin to find faith appealing? What can we learn
about evangelism from this?
Lisa Samson: I think it's the unity of the Christians
in the prayer group they find appealing. Everyone
wants significance, a place to camp, and a place of acceptance.
They see that at Mildred La Rue's house, they see it between
the believing women and it's attractive. I don't
think it's any different in the real world. Those
who haven't yet placed their faith in Christ find all
sorts of excuses to keep from doing so, and let's face
it, a lot of them hinge on the behavior of believers toward
each other. We're called hypocrites, backbiters,
bitter. Why? Are they right? Well, maybe.
We have to examine our own hearts honestly, mull over
our own behavior and ask, "Am I adding fuel
to that fire?" If the answer is yes, it's time
to make a change! And the wonderful thing about
it is this, God will help us do Just that, strengthening
us along the way, increasing our Christian joy. We can't
wait for others to change and become grace-givers.
It's up to us to take the first step. I know
in my own life, it's an hour-by-hour decision to do that,
over and over again.
GGBC: How can
we keep competition out of Christianity?
Lisa Samson: Only by changing ourselves
and praying for the rest of the believing world. Remember
Michael Jackson's hit, "The Man in the Mirror?"
When I first heard the song,
the spiritual truths of it hit me hard and were very convicting.
All we can do is allow God to work through us however
that may be, pray for each other, and love each other
with the love of the Lord. The rest is up
to the Holy Spirit. We can let go and trust Him
to move and to provide.
GGBC: Do you
know what kind of story you will write next?
Lisa Samson: Oh, yes! I working on novel
set here in my hometown of Baltimore. It's about
three generations of women living in the same house, about
how God will sometimes yank us right out of our comfort
zones so that we can serve Him in mighty ways. I'm very
excited about this one. It's definitely another
book for women. I love writing for women because
we like to go deep into the psyche and we find the heart
journeys of a character as exciting as where her actual
feet are taking her.
GGBC: Any advice
or suggestions for individuals who desire to write Christian
books as a vocation/ministry?
Lisa Samson: Don't worry about the market.
Don't consume yourself with what is selling now, what
is "hot." Write from your heart.
Write what God is telling you to write and write it in
the unique way only you can. Be easy to work with
as well. I've learned so much from editors and professionals
along the way it isn't even funny. The day I become unteachable
is the day I throw in the towel. Always listen for
what God is trying to tell you.
GGBC: Your final
Lisa Samson: We all love and worship
the same Holy God. Let's celebrate all the jewels
in His crown, love each other and work together to further
the Kingdom of God. Jesus'
death on the cross deserves no less. I am honored
to share these thoughts with you all and ask you to pray
for me if you ever think of me. I have so far to
go. But I know God is with me as He is with you.
What a hope and confidence we can have in Him.