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Interview With Lisa Samson

GGBC: 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 most?

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.

GGBC: 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 your book?

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 way.

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 own way. 

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!

GGBC: Do you see Christian unity today growing or declining? What do you hope The Church Ladies accomplishes toward helping believers seek common ground?

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 ground. 

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 Christian community?

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.

GGBC: Two 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 thoughts?

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.

ON A LITERARY NOTE

Review: Emma Dash

Emma Dash
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