Monday, February 13, 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway: Sumatra With the Seven Churches by Sandra Glahn

Welcome to the CBRB, Sandra! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I thrive on variety. At Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), my alma mater, I teach Creative Writing and Journalism  and I edit the award-winning quarterly magazine, Kindred Spirit. I’m also a PhD candidate in Aesthetic Studies (Arts and Humanities) at the University of Texas at Dallas. Incidentally, folks sometimes wonder what a degree in Aesthetic Studies is. Since I write medical suspense, one reader thought “aesthetic” was a form of anesthesiology.  But Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy dealing with beauty, art, taste, creation, and appreciation. My degree is part fiction writing, part first-century history, and part gender studies. The worst part of the program was that I’ve had to read over one hundred wonderful classic novels. Ha! What’s not to like about that?   

When did you first discover that you loved writing?

In the second grade. My teacher felt I had some ability so she assigned me to write one story per day. 

Why do you write the type of books that you do?

Apparently I like to live dangerously. I believe writing Bible studies is like handling explosives. You have to respect what you're working with. In an oft-quoted observation about Christ-followers, Annie Dillard wrote, “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, making up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.”

The Bible says that the Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword,” and handling it requires some serious accountability.  When I put together the Mocha on the Mount study, I had to constantly repent of hypocrisy as I challenged readers to eschew their own materialism or to weep over their own sin. 

 What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

My greatest obstacle is always time. I wish I could have eight-hour blocks of uninterrupted life, because I can crank out a lot more writing if I don’t have to “ramp up” after every phone call or email or text that yanks me out of the mental place where I create. As I write this, my child is home on what I had set aside as my writing day. Last month I ended up flying to the West coast to see my parents, because my dad was diagnosed with cancer. This stuff happens to everybody; it’s life. And we can’t do a lot to avoid such “interruptions.” Rather, we should plan for them. I try to negotiate generous deadlines, giving myself at least three months more than I think it will take write, so I have built-in margins. 
Has writing changed your life in any way?

My writing affects my Christianity. Some people think it might expect it to go the other way around. But I might have an unsettled conviction about something, whether it’s bioethics or how we interpret a Bible verse. And writing forces me to get precise, to determine exactly what I believe. Writing forces me to clarify my thinking. If I don’t know what I think about something, I certainly can’t communicate to my reader.  

Interesting answer, Sandra. What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

Job’s statement that “he gives and takes away—blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). Life is full of blessings and heartache. That’s the normal way on this planet. My husband and I endured a decade of infertility and pregnancy loss, followed by three failed adoptions before the successful adoption of our daughter. But we’ve also had good health, meaningful work, wonderful friendships, churches, and families. Shall we accept good from God and not adversity? 

Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Lots of people know about it; some have it on their shelves. Few actually read it. I had to read it during my PhD work, and I stood in awe. Great storytelling, terrific humor, deep theology. No wonder it changed the world and sold so many copies! 

Oh! I love that book, Sandra. When I read it, I thought I had discovered a rare gem many people didn't know about... until I learned otherwise:-) What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

When my husband and I worked with college students, we played a game out on the AIRTRANS rail system at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, with permission, of course. We spelled “Airtrans” backward and called it “Snartria.” It was like one huge night of hide and seek, only spread over miles and including subway cars. We had a blast till some of our guys laid down in the bottom of a car to keep from getting caught, and when the doors opened, they terrified an elderly couple who thought they were robbers. That put an end to our shenanigans.
Oh My! That is funny. I can only imagine the look on that elderly couple's face.  Please tell us about the featured book.
Sumatra with the Seven Churches, an eight-week Bible study for individuals or groups, explores the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation--a section of the Bible that contains letters to seven churches in Asia (ancient Turkey). The study focuses on Jesus’ messages to those churches and how His words are relevant to all believers today. Readers encounter Jesus as Alpha and Omega, the one who “is” and who was and who is coming. In Ephesus we remember our first love; in Laodicea we learn what makes Jesus want to spew. In each city we consider background information that helps us understand the message crafted for them. In the process we find timeless truths that apply to our own lives in the here-and-now.

Can you please give us the first page?

Sumatra with the Seven Churches (excerpt, not first page):
Ephesus:  The Love-Lost Church
“I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:4–5).

How do we gauge when love is alive? Affection shows itself in actions. Simply put, loving feelings can’t help but show themselves in loving acts. 
     Think about it. An acquaintance falls in love, and for a while she won’t even look at another guy. She’s loyal. She looks at his photo constantly. She won’t shut up about him. But then her hot-blooded “love” cools off, and she gets lazy. Before long she’s flirting again. “Sure,” she insists, “I still love my man—but I can look, as long as I don’t touch, right?”
     We don’t buy it, do we?
     It’s similar with our commitment to Christ. Often at the beginning of our faith walk, we act like a fiancĂ©e. But then we face tough times, and we get jaded. God’s people wound us. We see people bicker and tear each other apart. And we grow weary. Sometimes when we see new believers’ enthusiasm, we want to warn them to cool off.
     Jesus had a major rebuke for the church in Ephesus. It offended Him that they’d lost their first love. But He didn’t tell them, “Return to your former affection.” He told them to repent and return to their former works.
     Some of us have a knee-jerk reaction to the word “works,” because too often people make deeds a condition of salvation. But that’s not what’s happening here. Christ is assessing the Ephesians’ love by their actions, gauging their devotion by whether they do the works they did at first. Maybe the Ephesians still hated the ways of immoral people, but they got lazy about idolatry.
     The temple of Artemis in ancient Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and considered by some the most magnificent. Acts 19 tells us that Artemis had a huge economic hold on the city. And while we may not go after Artemis and Apollo, our cities have their own idols. Think of Las Vegas with its high-stakes gambling and human trafficking; Dallas with its materialism; and Washington DC’s thirst for power.
     Like the ancient Ephesians, we live in places that love something more than the one true God. And we, His followers, tend to go along with the world—as is evidenced by our actions. We mess around with sin, skirting too close to the edge of temptation. There’s that coworker we’re too friendly with because he or she makes us feel good. Or the lyrics we recite and jam to while insisting we never could memorize Scripture. Or the hold we let material goods have on us while our brothers and sisters around the world ask, “Why isn’t our rich family caring for us?” 
     What’s the solution? Twice Jesus says, “Repent.” And repenting goes far beyond mumbling “I’m sorry.” It means by his power “doing a 180.” It means making radical changes, falling on our faces, agreeing with God, and getting serious about throwing out the enemy. 

Thank you for the fun and interesting interview, Sandra! Readers, if you would like to learn more about Sandra, you can visit her in the following places:

Twitter:     @sandraglahn
FaceBook:        Aspire2

Sandra has kindly offered to giveaway a print copy of Sumatra With the Seven Churches- one of her Coffee Cup Bible Studies book. To be entered for a chance to win please leave a comment with your email address. Giveaway is open for the lower 48 states of the U.S.

For extra entries: 
~Be a follower +1
~Add my button to your blog +1
 ~Post about this giveaway +2
(please leave a separate comment for each extra entry)

Giveaway ends Sunday February 26, 2012 at midnight (eastern time). 


  1. Another great study by Sandi..well written and carefully studied. Thanks for sharing your gifts with us...Gwynne Johnson

  2. Thanks for letting us get to know Sandra better. I never realized she was the type to play hide-and-seek on the floors of Airtrans cars at DFW. I'll walk carefully the next time I have to take one of the updated terminal-to-terminal cars out there.
    Please enter me in the drawing.
    Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com

  3. a wonderful posting...please add my name to this drawing. thanks :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  4. Love Sandra's Bible studies. Would love this one, too.

    Cara at caraputman dot com

  5. Never have done one of Sandra's Bible Studies (hadn't heard of her but will do some research now) but this one sounds like exactly what some of our congregation has been talking about studying! Please enter me in your drawing. Thanks.
    purensimplenatural at gmail dot com