Leslie Vernick Answers The Faithful Fifteen
FR: What kind of testimony to your faith are you demonstrating in this book? If you are writing fiction, do you write fiction that is based upon your faith or that has a message for the reader? Is you goal to demonstrate your faith in your writing?
LV: As a Christian counselor, I find many people today, including believers, have bought into the idea that we have to love ourselves more before we can love God or others well. Consequently we are self-focused and self-centered, searching for love and happiness by finding ourselves, fulfilling ourselves, loving ourselves, believing in ourselves and satisfying ourselves. But Jesus tells us that our only true and lasting joy is found in knowing and loving Him. There is a proper way to love ourselves biblically, but it is not defined by self-indulgence and high self-esteem. My book, HOW TO FIND SELFLESS JOY IN A ME-FIRST WORLD, helps people experience the source of lasting joy when they learn how to have a proper relationship with themselves, others, and most importantly, God.
FR: When did you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus? Where are you today in your walk? Is your faith an important part of what you do?
LV: I came to know Christ as a teenager at a youth retreat. My faith --- my relationship with Christ --- is the motivating force behind everything I do. Whether I write, speak, counsel others or wash dishes, my desire is to glorify Him in my life.
FR: Tell us about your church experiences, how you grew up (or maybe didn't grow up) in the church, where you attend now, your involvement in your local assembly, etc.
LV: My parents were divorced when I was 8 years old. After the divorce my father recommitted his life to Christ and eventually remarried. When I was a teenager, my siblings and I went to live with him and it was then that we first heard the gospel. We attended an Evangelical Free church as a family.
I've been involved in church since then --- mostly Evangelical Free churches. My husband and I have been members of Faith Evangelical Free Church in Trexlertown, PA for 23 years. I have taught Sunday School, women's Bible studies, and worked in the nurseries and children's programs when my children were younger. Currently we are active in a small group, and I occasionally have the opportunity to speak to Bible studies (especially when they are studying something I wrote) as well as to teach adult Sunday School when I am in town. I am also a consultant for our Stephen's Ministry, which is a lay counseling ministry in our church and I do a teaching session for their trainees once a year on depression.
FR: Tell us about your current church family/fellowship. How does it influence your work?
LV: My pastor's sermons influence me greatly. Often, I use what the Lord speaks to me about during those times in my writing. My small group fellowship reminds me how important connection, honesty and real relationships are. At times, being in the public eye as an author and speaker, you appear larger than life and that you have it all together. My church family grounds me, keeps me real and reminds me I am part of a larger body.
I also have a group of women who faithfully pray for me. They have prayed each of my books into existence. Without their quiet and persistent petitions on my behalf, none of my books would have been written.
FR: Who are your spiritual mentors? Your professional mentors?
LV: I have had a number of people who have profoundly influenced me over the years. More recently, probably the most influential spiritual mentors (through their books) I have had are Gary Thomas, Leanne Payne, Oswald Chambers, Richard Foster, A.W. Tozer and François Fenélon. Professionally, I have been taught and challenged by the lives and teachings of David Powilson, Ph.D; Ed Welch, Ph.D; and Diane Langberg, Ph.D.
FR: Discuss your calling/mission --- as a writer and as a Christian.
LV: My calling/mission is to "know Him and make Him known. I want to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to help others love him too." I love helping people understand the ways of God, His mind, His desires and His purposes so that they can see how much He loves us and desires us to trust Him. Everything I write about revolves around those things.
FR: What are your Scripture reading habits?
LV: Most days I try to spend at least an hour in Bible study and prayer. I try to read through the entire Bible every other year, just so that I keep a big picture perspective. I journal what I believe God is teaching me through His Word and often refer back to those lessons later when I am writing a book.
FR: What books have most influenced your work?
LV: SEEKING THE FACE OF GOD by Gary Thomas, RESTORING THE CHRISTIAN SOUL by LeAnne Payne, MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST by Oswald Chambers, and CHRISTIAN PERFECTION by François Fenélon
FR: Do you read secular fiction at all? If so, who are your favorite authors and why?
LV: I don't have much time to read fiction but like to do so when I can. My favorite authors are Bodie and Brock Thoene, Susan Howatch, Anne Lamott and Amy Tan. I love how they write and how they weave deep and profound truths into their characters' experiences and the story line.
FR: What are your other media habits --- television, movies, music, etc.?
LV: I love to listen to Christian music --- praise and worship especially. I occasionally go to movies. I usually like humor, chick flicks and movies that tell a good story like Antoine Fisher or Rudy.
FR: Do you and your family have any special faith-based traditions?
LV: Not really, other than at holiday time. Sometimes I am sad that my church doesn't teach more of the early church traditions that can heighten our awareness of spiritual things.
FR: Tell us about your prayer life and habits.
LV: I have been convicted in the past several years how important prayer is. Early in my Christian walk, my prayer life consisted mostly of one-way conversations with God. I was giving Him my list of needs and wants, asking Him to help me or others, but I wasn't really listening to what he had to say to me. Over the past several years I have changed that and I see prayer as more of a dialogue, not a monologue. I want to listen to what He has to say to me. I read Scripture prayerfully, asking God what He is trying to tell me today. As I pray I listen to Him to know how to pray because we often aren't sure. I also ask Him for His perspective on things because, as Oswald Chambers says, "prayer isn't getting hold of an answer, prayer is getting hold of God."
In addition to a specific time each morning to pray, I try to pray throughout the day. I keep conscious in my mind my relationship with God at all times. He is my companion so I can just say a few words or listen to Him in every moment. The neatest change in my prayer life is that often I find myself waking up in the middle of the night and, even in my grogginess, my heart turns to talking with the Lord. I think that is what the apostle Paul meant when he said "pray without ceasing."
FR: Describe what you believe the role of writing in religion is.
LV: I think life is a story and we need to write it down. Writing clarifies and tightens what is observed so that its most essential elements are preserved and passed to others. I think when reading a book, article or story, people's natural defenses are down, they are more open to hearing truth for the first time and letting it possibly impact them and change them. We need Christian writers to tell others in excellent and creative ways who God is and how He works in our world.
FR: Tell us about one or more of your favorite encounters with readers.
LV: The most exciting encounter I had was when I was speaking at the Crystal Cathedral in California at their International Women's Conference. After I was finished, I was strolling the grounds and stopped to admire and meditate at the beautiful bronze sculpture of the prodigal son and his father. Next to me was an African American gentleman doing the same. He struck up a conversation with me and we exchanged pleasantries. He was there praying before he had to pick up his wife from work. He asked me why I was at the Cathedral and I told him I was speaking on one of my books, HOW TO ACT RIGHT WHEN YOUR SPOUSE ACTS WRONG. His mouth dropped, his eyes widened and he immediately unzipped his Bible jacket and inside was a copy of my book. He said, "I have read this book two times and it has helped me so much. I had some questions and I can't believe God has put you right here to ask."
It was a God moment for both of us. What would have been the possibility that by chance we would have encountered each other? The moment encouraged us both at how concerned God is with even the little details of our lives.
FR: Would you share a story about someone you've brought to Christ or share how your writing has helped someone?
LV: A woman who had been plagued her entire life by anxiety and depression read my book and then came to see me professionally. It was wonderful to watch God begin to bring her out of darkness and into the light through the truth of his word. My 5-step process, called The TRUTH Principle, helps people learn to take God's word from head knowledge and move it down to heart-based trust. For me, there is no greater joy.
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