Greetings from Sarah Sundin, who is rapidly posting this because my power might go out! Today I have the honor of interviewing one of our newest CAN members, but an author I’ve known for years and consider a friend—Janet McHenry. Janet made a name for herself with her bestselling book, PrayerWalk, and she’s published over twenty devotionals and books about prayer.
Welcome, Janet! Please tell us about your latest book.
Stronger Every Day is an 11-week Bible study examining personal strength—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Each week looks at a different biblical character to see how God developed strength in that person’s life. The study also includes memory verse cards and other tools to track weight loss and health.
That sounds fantastic—and really useful! What inspired you to write this book?
More than eight years ago I walked the floors of the International Christian Retail Show with author Carole Lewis, who was the national director for First Place for Health. At the time I was struggling with health issues. After miles of walking together and her encouragement, I joined a First Place group in my home church in Reno. In FP4H meetings you do a Bible study together related to the four areas of health, and you exercise together. I lost 43 pounds and got inspired to write Bible studies for the nonprofit. The first Bible study I wrote was called Training for Success—a 10-week study of the characteristics of Jesus, whom I call my “Personal Trainer.”
Wow! Congratulations! What is the primary focus of your book?
The focus of this study is personal strength—not only physically but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Readers study different biblical characters to glean practical ideas they can apply to their own lives, so that they get stronger themselves.
How has God used the message of your book in your own life?
I am actually using the Bible study now in the First Place group I lead at my church and am finding it’s been really helpful as I work through some health issues. I’ve lost eight pounds and feel stronger just after three weeks in the study. So it works, haha! Seriously, I love First Place for Health and hope people check out its website.
When did you first recognize God’s call to write for Him?
I was never one of those people who HAD to write. God dragged me into it. Many years ago I was attending a women’s retreat near Lake Tahoe when the speaker said, “I want you to go find a rock, sit on it, and wait for God to speak to you.” I think I rolled my eyes. However, I did find my rock and sat on it—and surprisingly God spoke quickly to me: “I want you to write for me.” Honestly, I had no idea what that meant. I had a newspaper background and had tried a little freelancing with a big FAIL as a result. But I went to three major writers’ conferences that next year and learned how to write and submit articles and book proposals. Twenty-four books later, I am still writing for him. To God be the glory!
I’m always surprised how many authors never planned to write—including me. What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?
Because the practice of prayerwalking changed my life significantly, I have written six books on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk (WaterBrook, 2001). Prayerwalking helped me get fit and free from depression and fear. When I started prayerwalking twenty years ago, I pictured Jesus as my Personal Trainer and asked him for his eyesight for my community so that I could pray for the needs around me. My personal testimony of that life transformation is often found in the pages of any book I write. I encourage people to keep Looking Up!—which is my business name.
What would be your ideal writing place? And…what’s your actual writing place like?
Oh my! My ideal writing place IS my actual writing place—especially after some renovations we did this year. My office is on the second floor of our home—with French doors that open onto a balcony that overlooks the Sierra Valley, the largest alpine valley in North America. From my desk I look out to mountain peaks, big skies, pasturelands, grazing cattle, and a creek that winds diagonally across my view. I work on an antique, marble, ice cream parlor table from the late 1800s and am surrounded by white shiplap walls, my mother’s watercolor artwork, filled bookshelves, and other antiques. It’s my happy place.
That sounds absolutely gorgeous! Do you have an unfulfilled dream?
I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to have a used-new bookstore/coffeehouse/antiques-and-gifts store. I saw just such a place this summer on Topsail Island, North Carolina. Weekly I have to talk myself out of taking such a plunge. Folks who have bookstores are my heroes—I admire their courage and fortitude.
What ministries are you involved in, and why?
I’m immersed in prayer. I started the prayer ministries at my church in Reno fourteen years ago and weekly coordinate those; I’ve had other leadership roles there too. I also am the Sierra County director for National Day of Prayer. Additionally, I am the administrator for two online prayer groups and Bible Girls, a Facebook group that reads through the Bible together each year. It’s also a joy to serve two nonprofits, The Sierra Schools Foundation, for which I am a board member, and Awaken, a nonprofit in Reno that helps women get out of the trafficking industry.
Do you have a “day job” or a previous career? Does it influence what or how you write?
I recently retired from teaching high school English and also serving as academic advisor in our small, public high school. I loved hanging out with teenagers and still serve as the school’s official home basketball scorekeeper. We graduate about 25 or so seniors a year, but about half of those get into four-year universities and most attend college after graduation. Prior to that I also worked as a newspaper reporter/editor, technical writer/editor, and paralegal. I’ve always worked with words in one way or another.
Tell us about your favorite library memory.
My favorite library memories relate back to the twenty years I taught high school seniors. Every year I took the seniors to the library at the University of Nevada, Reno, campus, where they got training to use the online library catalog and found sources for their senior project research papers. They each had to find at least one credible source before they left. It was my theory that if a high school student could learn how to use a college library, he or she was already over one major hump that typically can challenge new college students. I loved seeing light bulbs go on in their eyes. While I miss that, I do love being able to write full time now.
I’m sure the students miss you too! Please tell us about your next project.
I am excited about several devotional projects in the works as well as another Bible study. Daily God shows me more about his love, care, and provision for my well being, so it’s a delight to share that help and encouragement with others.
Thank you for sharing with us, Janet!
Writing for Him,