Monday, August 13, 2012

Author Interview: Parables and Word Pictures from the New Testament by Cheri Cowell

Welcome to the CBRB, Cheri! Thank you for being here! What was the first book you wrote?

Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life (Beacon Hill Press, 2007) about spiritual discernment and knowing and following God's will in tough times.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing your book and how did you overcome it?

What to include and what not to include in a study of the parables. My study covers 118 New Testament parables, parables word pictures such as when Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd, and what I call 'parable sequels' or extensions offered by Paul and the apostles.
What passion drove you as you wrote your new book?

I LOVE the Word and I love storytelling and I want others to fall in love not only with the Word but also with the concept that they can become a living parable, a living story pointing others toward the Ultimate Living Parable––Jesus Christ.

What surprised or otherwise impacted you as you wrote your book? 

There's not a consensus on how many parables are in the Bible or even what defines a parable.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book(s)?

That the parables are not isolated stories only used for sermon illustrations, but when read together they give us a picture of how we are to live as kingdom people. Through the parables we learn how to become living parables in a world desperate to "see" God.

What book(s) do you have on your nightstand right now?

I'm reading two books, Cynthia Ruschti's They Almost Always Come Home and Calvin Miller's Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition.

What life experience, education, or training helped you become an author?

I am a writers' conference fan, having attended and taught at more than 40 over the last ten years. I wouldn't be where I am today as a writer without them. I also received a Masters in Theological Studies from Asbury Seminary, where I learned the Inductive Bible study method I used in writing the parables Bible study.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

My husband and I love to travel, to see nature and all the beautiful places God's created for us to enjoy. National Parks are our favorite destinations. In June we will travel to Yellowstone.

What is God teaching you right now?

That we all have a story to share and in sharing our stories we hear how God is moving, in listening to other's stories we begin to see how our own story is shaped by the interweavings of so many stories to form a God-story.

The title of your study is Parables & Word Pictures; just what is a “word picture?”

There are some teachings of Jesus, such as when He says, "I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep" that aren't technically parables but are what I call parable word pictures because the image tells the whole story.

It has been said that Jesus spoke in parables to “confuse and confound” and you say you have a “key” to making these less confusing and confounding to modern-day readers. What is this key?

It wasn't until I studied the parables as a whole that the whole message they convey became clear, so the key is a comprehensive look at the New Testament parables. This is what the study brings to the reader.

Storytelling is a big part of our culture. Everywhere you turn there is a new story; how can we use these parables to reach our neighbors and friends with their story-telling power?

For me, this is what studying the parables is all about. It is about shaping our lives after Jesus that when other "read our lives" they see Him. How we treat others, how we respond to sorrow and obstacles tells a story. When asked how and why we are able to be at peace, or turn the other cheek, we don't need a canned presentation. We simply share our story of how God's story has changed us.

You talk about the Kingdom of God being in you and me, and being "here and now." With all that’s going wrong in the world right now, it doesn’t look like it's here. What does this mean?

I agree this is often the most troublesome stumbling block for some but I believe the answer lies in what many call "already and not yet" theology. In this orthodox biblical view, the kingdom of God is seen as ushered in with the life, death, and resurrection of Christ––this is the "already." But the "not yet" refers to the consummation or completion of that process which will occur when Christ returns in the Second Coming. The Kingdom of God is therefore present today in the hearts and hands of Christ's followers and one glorious day when Christ returns for us, our King will take His throne and His kingdom will be complete. Until then the parables teach us how to live as kingdom people in a not-yet world.

The study concludes with a look at the Parable of all parables. Tell us about this because this is the heart of your study.

I remember the moment when in preparation for writing this study I received the revelation that Jesus not only taught parables, but He was a parable––a living parable. In fact, He was the Ultimate Living Parable who lived His life as an example of what a life shaped by the truths taught in the parables should look like. Likewise, you and I have been invited to live parable-shaped lives so we, too, might become a living parable in a world begging to see God.

About the book.
Buy At Amazon
Parables and Word Pictures from the New Testament is a 13-week workbook-style study of 118 parables from Jesus, Paul, and the apostles. This comprehensive look at the New Testament parables will help readers develop an ear for the message they convey—that the Kingdom of God is both here and near. Through the study readers will be challenged to live faithful and holy “Kingdom lives” in a broken and unholy world. 

Of the thirteen weeks, the first nine explore the parables of Jesus in the four gospels; the next three look at the parables in Acts and those from Paul and the apostles. The study culminates in a look at what the author calls living parables, with Jesus as the Parable of all parables. Through Him we come to know God the Father, and through Jesus we come to live as living parables in a world begging to “see God.” Living story-shaped lives allows others to see God in us—this is Kingdom living. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Litfuse Blog Tour: Love Finds You In Mackinac, Michigan by Melanie Dobson

Buy At Amazon
As the Gilded Age comes to a close, Elena Bissette's once-wealthy family has nearly lost its fortune. The Bissettes still own a home on fashionable Mackinac Island, where they will spend one last summer in the hope of introducing Elena to a wealthy suitor. But Elena is repulsed by the idea of marrying for money.

Quickly tiring of the extravagant balls, Elena spends most evenings escaping back into Mackinac's rugged forest. There she meets Chase, a handsome laborer who shares her love for the night sky. The two begin to meet in secret at an abandoned lighthouse, where they work together to solve a mystery buried in the pages of a tattered diary.

As Elena falls in love with Chase, her mother relentlessly contrives to introduce her to Chester Darrington, the island's most eligible bachelor. Marriage to the elusive millionaire would solve the Bissettes' financial woes, and Elena is torn between duty and love.

Love Finds You in Mackinac, Michigan was an enchanting read. The lovely setting, easy-to-relate characters, and the charming romance made for an enjoyable read. Everything flowed seamlessly and the plot gently prodded me along.

The romantic tension was fairly high and kept me in anticipation. Since the romance revolved around a unknown/mistaken identity, even though in a different setting the main characters knew of each other, I eagerly awaited the moment when the two characters would realize each other's identity- and Melanie did not disappoint! And the little astronomy facts were interesting.

Of course, my favorite aspect of the story was that it was a Christ-centered read. I enjoyed that the spiritual aspect of the novel was based on the first few chapters of Genesis- it gave the book a unique feel.

All in all, Melanie has created a sweet and engaging romance that I thoroughly enjoyed. I anticipated this read to be good... and it was good. I give it 5 stars. It can be bought at Amazon.

** Thanks to the Litfuse Publicity Group for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review**