Sandra, please give us a brief overview of your recent release.
Latte with Luke (AMG), number twelve in the Coffee Cup Bible Study series, considers the humanity of Jesus. Luke, more than the other Gospel writers, presents Jesus as caring about the outsider. In Latte with Luke, readers see Jesus’s focus and consider their own response to people on the margins.
What inspired you to write this book?
I love writing Bible studies that include history and archeology to help readers understand the contexts in which Bible books were written. And I love helping people study the Bible for themselves. In the Coffee Cup Bible Study series’ previous books, I included genres like epistles and poetry and history and apocalypse. But the only study based on any of the Gospels was Mocha on the Mount, which includes only a few chapters from Matthew. I knew I needed to explore an entire Gospel—the life of Christ is an important topic of study! And I chose Luke because I had just read The Faith of the Outsider, and it moved me to see how much Jesus pursued people on the margins. A lot of those people were women. More than any other Gospel writer, Luke tells of Jesus’s interactions with women or Jesus’s stories that included women, like Lot’s wife or the widow who gave her mite.
What an encouraging perspective. Has God used the message of this book in your own life?
As I studied the Gospel of Like, I saw constantly how much opposition Jesus endured from those he should have been able to count on to share his purpose and perspective. Yet he faced unrelenting criticism, and ultimately death, at the hands of his own people. His love shown toward those who accused, injured, and slandered him encouraged me to press on in the face of what felt like betrayal at the hands of some other believers at the time. The life of Jesus Christ stabilized me, helping me to persevere in the strength of the one who knew and knows how it feels to love in the face of deep hurt.
That sounds like actual application of the truths Jesus shares. He has clearly impacted your life as a writer, but has your authorly employment impacted your relationship with Him?
One way being a writer has affected my spiritual life is that writing has helped me see where I have flaws in my thinking and inconsistencies in my approach. Someone once asked Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) if her Christianity affected her writing, and she said it was the other way around—that her writing affected her Christianity. That has certainly been my experience. Writing helps me see where I need to research to shore up my logic, to close gaps in my own flawed thinking, and to apply what I’m learning if I expect readers to do the same.
It seems that you must love writing. Is there a specific reason?
I’m the fourth of five kids, and when I was young, I rarely got a thought fully expressed before somebody interrupted me—often to tell me how wrong I was. Ah, siblings! When I write, I get to finish the sentence, complete the idea, lay out the full concept without interruption. Ha!
Actually, it’s much deeper than that, of course. I love helping people all over the world explore the Scriptures for themselves. Writing provides me with classrooms where I can teach Scripture in places with no chairs, desks, or marker boards.
Excellent perspective, Sandra. Why do you write this type of Bible study?
When I was a young mom, I wanted Bible studies that would fit in the diaper bag. And I wanted the Scriptures, commentary, and questions all in one text—rather than having to lug a Bible, a commentary, and a workbook to places where I could catch a few minutes, like waiting rooms and carpool lines. I also wanted Bible studies designed for both right-and left-brained learners. And I wanted to know history when it overlapped with the text—like telling me the difference between Herod the Great and Herod Antipas—and which Herod was in view when the biblical text referred simply to “Herod.” When I didn’t find Bible studies that incorporated all those elements, I created my own for people at my church. Years later I realized I could publish them for a broader audience. Voila! The Coffee Cup Bible Study series.
You mentioned church – are you involved in other ministries?
I am a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary in a department that’s unique, as seminary departments go: Media Arts and Worship. I mostly focus on the first part of that name—media. I teach doctoral students how to self-publish for ministry. And I teach master’s-level students to write for periodicals, online devotionals, web-sites—anywhere the written word can communicate biblical truth. I also serve as president-elect for the Evangelical Press Association. Clearly, I love training writers who have something worth saying. The writers I train can reach people whose lives I could never touch.
What a fabulous path for sharing Christ. Do you have pets that inspire you along the way?
I am a dog lover; my husband is a cat lover. Thus: We passed our sixteen-year anniversary before we had any pets, because we could not agree on the Natural Superiority of Dogs. In a moment of weakness one year on my husband’s birthday, I told him, “Okay—go get yourself a kitten.” Bam! That was the sound of the door as he flew out before I could change my mind.
Since then I have become a reluctant convert.
My husband worked in an office downtown while I freelanced from our suburban home. So when my moment of weakness happened, it fell on me to take the kitten to the vet for its first shots. Now, being a dog person (and thus clueless about kittens), I thought I could just put a cat in the car to travel as one does with a dog. So I put that kitten next to me on the front seat. And as I drove, he crawled all over me—including on top of my head. With claws. He. Was. Terrified. So I spoke soothingly to him saying something like this: “I wish I could explain to you that I have good plans for you. Yes, you’ll get shots, and they will hurt, and you won’t understand, but they will keep you from getting kitty leukemia. And it all feels really bad, but really, it’s coming from a place of love.” And I suddenly got chills. I realized how God, who is infinitely above me in intelligence, cannot explain in terms simple enough for my pea brain to understand his ways, which are as high above me as the heavens are above the earth (trillions of galaxies, at latest count).
Suffice it to say, my pets inspire my writing. Unless, of course, they sit on my hands when I’m trying to type.
It looks like you find inspiration in even the most unusual circumstances. What can you tell us about your next project?
Nobody’s Mother (IVP Academic) looks at the identity of the goddess Artemis of the Ephesians at the time of the earliest Christians. In Acts 19 we read about how a big disturbance happened in Ephesus relating to Artemis’s worshipers, and that uprising caused the apostle Paul to depart earlier than planned. He wrote a letter to his protégé Timothy, whom he left in Ephesus to combat false doctrine (1 Timothy). Understanding the kind of falsehood people in Timothy’s world believed helps us better understand the instructions he received—and help us learn how to live in a world filled with falsehood.