Friday, February 13, 2009

MYSTERY GUEST FRIDAYS Welcomes Bestselling Author Francine Rivers!!

Welcome to Mystery Guest Fridays at Words to Go, a special Valentine’s Day blog event because today we’ve invited one of the most celebrated romance writers in Christian fiction. It’s my privilege to welcome Francine Rivers. Francine wrote many romance novels for years and then, upon accepting Jesus as her Lord, she quit writing for three years. It’s for that reason that I asked Francine if she would chat with us today about a different kind of romance, the romance between God and us or, in her case, her passionate love relationship with Christ. Grab a venti and a journal and please help me welcome, Francine to Words to Go!

FRANCINE: It’s great to talk with you, Patty.

PATTY: Why don’t we start by you sharing what happened during that three year hiatus from writing?

FRANCINE: Becoming a Christian turned my life upside down and inside out. For years, my “identity” came from my work. Writing became more important than anything else including family. That “writer’s block” was a wake up call from God, pointing out the idols in my life. I needed to get rid of them.

PATTY: Did you think that your writing career was over?

FRANCINE: Interestingly enough, when writing ceased to matter, He shook me up again, by making the book of Hosea a milestone in my faith development. It was during a home group Bible study that I knew what God wanted me to write for Him. Whatever we do is for His glory, and not our own.

PATTY: That’s a principle we seem to be hearing less and less in a pretty celebrity-driven age. How did you respond?

FRANCINE: Redeeming Love was the result of His call. It was a hard sell. No one who had worked with me previously wanted it to be a romance about Christ.

PATTY: There was a pretty standard boiler-plate expectation for Christian novelists in the early days too. When you make the choice not to follow the pack, there's always resistance. When did you finally have a breakthrough?

FRANCINE: An editor at Bantam who happened to be Christian and who wanted to bring Christ-centered stories to the general market ended up buying the manuscript. By then, I realized God wanted me to bring my questions to Him and use the writing as a way of finding His perspective. I had started work on A Voice in the Wind. My agent, Jane, submitted that manuscript to general market publishers as well as Tyndale House. I didn’t know which way to go and prayed God would make it clear. The next day, Jane received the answer. The general market publishers rejected A Voice in the Wind for its spiritual content, and Tyndale House said they wanted it, as well as a sequel. I’ve been with Tyndale House ever since, with the exception of the “redeemed version” of Redeeming Love which was published by Multnomah (now Randon House).

PATTY: One virtue that has always impressed me about you, Frani, is your passion for Jesus, Lover of your soul. Since this is a Valentine’s Day event, I felt it fitting to finish out the week by discussing our passion for the One who first had a great Passion for us.
What do you see as the igniter that God placed in your life that brought a passion for Christ to life in you?

FRANCINE: The igniter was past sins, hardship, anguish, trying to “fix” everything myself, and coming to the full realization I had no control over my life at all, and certainly none over those around me. I fought so long and hard, I reached the end of myself and realized I needed Jesus desperately, so desperately I was willing to get down on my knees and beg.

PATTY: It’s that ragged beggarly state that Jesus preached about on the Sermon on the Mount—come to God poor in spirit. How well I know. Now, you seem to be saying that you did believe in God. How is that different from now?

FRANCINE: I’d grown up in the church, but head knowledge is different from heart knowledge. I’m one of those strong-willed people who needed to be knocked to my knees. It’s one thing to have a Savior, and something vastly different to make Him Lord.

PATTY: For those who might ask, how is that different?

FRANCINE: We all want to be rescued, but most don’t want to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. When I asked Jesus to take over my life and claim all of me, He took me at my word and began the process of retraining my thinking. It wasn’t easy or painless.

PATTY: So just saying “yes” to Jesus, it’s not the end of God’s expectation of us, is it?

FRANCINE: Bad habits die hard. But God is patient. The training is still going daily through study of His Word, through prayer and fellowship with other believers. I still consider myself a “new Christian”. By the way, we still have our home group Bible study going – after 22 years. Our pastor was called to another church, and Rick (my husband) is now teaching.

PATTY: I remember what an influence that pastor was in your life. You talked about him a lot. Francine, you steered me in two different directions that literally changed my life. Does that surprise you? One was that I should stop writing “for the market” and write my books of passion. But even more importantly, you kindled a love and passion for God’s Word in me that is still alive today. You sent me in the direction of Bible Study Fellowship where I found solid anchorage in understanding and applying God’s Word. Even now, your passion for God’s Word permeates your stories. Why do you think your readers need to know so much about the Bible?

FRANCINE: It always amazes me how God can use anything and anyone to reach into the heart of one of His children. We share our experience and hope and God “translates” so others hear and receive His direction. I’ve loved reading your books, Patty. You are a gifted “word smith”. God is going to continue to use your gifts and talents for His good purpose in the lives of others.

PATTY: You’re a pretty good writer yourself. =)

FRANCINE: I think it’s essential to know God’s Word for ourselves (especially now!) and not rely on a pastor or priest (or media) to tell us what to believe – or even what Scripture says. We need to take God’s Word in like food and water and allow it to change the landscape of our lives.

PATTY: Eat the Word and it will transform you.

FRANCINE: It frustrates me when Christians try to hide from the world. We aren’t called to be timid or afraid. We have the Holy Spirit to teach and direct us on a daily basis. You and I share our faith through our writing, Patty, but others do so wherever God has placed them, using the tools God has given them. Spending time reading the Bible allows Scripture (Truth) to flow from us in a very natural way. Christ gives us the words to speak when words are necessary. We also need to know God’s Word so we can discern when something is not true; that goes for hearing what “the world” says as well as listening to what is preached from a pulpit.

PATTY: It’s confusing age we live in, that’s for certain.

FRANCINE: Just because a person says they are a Christian doesn’t mean they are. Just because a person claims God said it, doesn’t mean He did. When we know God’s Word intimately, we recognize the lies. Then God gives us the courage to speak Truth in love through Christ.

PATTY: You sound very vehement, nearly urgent. Why the urgency?

FRANCINE: I believe persecution will come in the not too distant future. Needless to say, I’m not eager to suffer anymore than anyone else. We have the assurance that “the church” will survive. In fact, faith and the Body grow stronger in tribulation. (Persecution drove the disciples out of Jerusalem and hence, spread the Gospel far beyond Israel.) But there will come a time when people will not tolerate the message of Christ. It is already “politically incorrect” and being removed from the public forum. We need to fill our minds with Scripture and teach it to our children. You can’t do that in a haphazard way.

PATTY: Sneak peek into my hubby’s message this coming Sunday.

FRANCINE: Besides all that, it is the most interesting, mind and life altering reading there is! Scripture holds the answers to all our problems, past, present and future. If you’re going through a major storm in life, you can find peace in the midst of it by spending time with the Lord in His Word.

PATTY: Yes, it can calm anxiety, stress. There are so many practical sides to having a passion for the Word.

FRANCINE: I can tell when I haven’t spent enough time with Jesus. My life begins to unravel! Not too many days ago, I awakened thinking about the news – about Iraq and our economic system in decline and more problems on the horizon. And then a thought flashed clearly of my Bible lying on the sofa in the living room. To me, that was God reminding me to be still and know He is God, a reminder to rest in Him and remember this world is not my home – and to spend more time with Him instead of listening to “the news”.

PATTY: What would you suggest to those who might believe that God exists, but they can’t understand a love relationship with God?

FRANCINE: Sometimes the best we can do or say is nothing, and understand that on some level we’ve all “been there and done that”. Time and life show people they can’t live without a love relationship with God. We were made to be addicted to something.


FRANCINE: If we don’t have Christ, we search for someone or something to fill the void – and that leads to more disappointment and chaos in our lives. Only Jesus fills us up and makes us whole. All we can do is live our life for Christ and be ready when the opportunity comes to tell our story.

PATTY: The greatest story of all is the one that God is writing now inside of us.

FRANCINE: The story of how Jesus courted and won our hearts is the greatest thing we have to offer another person. People are hungry for love. They want the peace and joy Christ has to offer. Frankly, there is no more passionate love affair than the one God offers through Christ. God’s love is a consuming fire that refines and recreates us – and best of all, His love lasts forever.

PATTY: You’re making me homesick for Keith Green. Maybe the next Great Revival will be started by storytellers. Who knows? Thank you, Francine, for joining us today on Words to Go. Your zeal ignites me, Sister, as it always has!

Francine has given me three of her autographed books to give away. Yes, of course, her timeless and now classic novel Redeeming Love, the one she talked about today. Also she’s giving away Atonement Child and The Last Sin-Eater. I’ve read them all and highly recommend them.

Additionally, remember that fabulous guest author Karen Ball is giving away three of her novels and trailblazers Stephen and Janet Bly also are donating one of a two-book winner’s pick in our Valentine’s Day Book Bonanza! I’m donating three copies of my most romantic title Earthly Vows. Each of these authors will mail the winning book to the blogger whose name I draw for that book. Names and books are random selections, left to the fates to decide, so kindly understand we can’t manage requests. If you already own a title, you can bless someone and give it away.

At the end of today, I’ll collect the names of those who have blogged feedback (using first and last name please) “during” Romancing the Authors Week. That means that if I draw your name more than once, you’ll win more! Then I’ll put up the list Saturday morning here at Words to Go (you know I love you now). I’ll need the winners addresses. If I don’t hear from winners by Monday 9:00 a.m. eastern, I’ll redraw. So be sure you’ve left feedback this week for each of the authors and their chats.

This is the most fun I’ve had blogging in a long time. And we owe much of it to you, our readers, who’ve joined us in fellowship and the spirit of love that so tickles the heart of God. I pray you have a great Valentine’s Weekend, dear friends!

Patty Valentino Hickman
Your Friendly Neighborhood Cupid