Monday, May 19, 2008

A View From Lisa Samson's Window! Welcome, Lisa!

It was such a joy to interview Lisa about her latest book, Embrace Me! I hope you will enjoy our brief chat and that you will get to know her many works! Lisa is a terrific lady, and her books really are terrific! Welcome, Lisa!

A burn victim in a freak show and a pastor of a mega-church…where on earth did you find that idea? Was there ever a point in the writing process that you wondered how you would ever get the stories to weave together so seamlessly?

It actually started out with the mega-church pastor because I wanted to explore why we're so enchanted with power: political power, ministerial power, even power within our family structures. The Jesus I read about, while having all the power of Divinity, laid it down and allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross. If this is the God we claim to follow, what in the world happened? Why are we more concerned about growth than discipleship? Politics than purity? Money than mercy? When did it stop being a good thing to lay down our lives for others? And to take it a step further, as Jesus said, (to paraphrase) "Who cares if you love those who love you? Big deal. Anyone can do that. I tell you, love your enemies." I think, when we forget about our Lord's call for love and service, the call to imitate Him, we begin to compromise the nature of the gospel. But our faith is not just in our head, is it? It's in our hands and our feet and our hearts. And it's pricey. We must lay it all down. What does that even look like? That's what I wanted to explore.

The sideshow performer, Valentine, came into being when I saw a lady here in Lexington with a terribly disfigured face. She lives near a friend of mine. I asked what had happened to her and she said the woman had Drano thrown onto her face. Actually, in the book itself, I give this lady a little scene as a sort-of thanks. Additionally, I'd taken an interest in sideshows a few years previously. I was fascinated by how normal some of their lives were off season. A lot had spouses and children. Marrying one another and buying houses in Florida to retire! Sideshow performers will call themselves "freaks" but I never felt comfortable referring to them as that other than on their own lips and in the mind of Valentine. It was a precarious tightrope to balance on, how to give a haunting picture without being offensive or going over the edge and making people too uncomfortable.

And yes, there was most definitely a point in the process that I wondered if I could pull off weaving the two stories together. It's such a matter of timing and honestly, sometimes I wondered if it was going to take the same amount of time for each story, because Drew's was getting a little too long! But I always find there are challenges like this when I get into a book. I actually make it that way because I'm always fiddling with point-of-view, structure and voice, trying something new with each book.

A freak show…the word freak speaks of the boldness in your story-telling. Why are people still drawn to what is ugly or frightening with no intent to reach out?

I have no idea, but we are, aren't we? We're glued to our TVs during tragedies. A lot of us watched the second tower fall on September 11; we were glued to the coverage of Shock and Awe knowing full well people were dying as those bomb were exploding; Katrina gave us round the clock coverage. I know this because I was one of those glued to the television set. We seem to be drawn to tragedy in the same way we're drawn to beauty. We are as equally compelled to stare at a deformed person as we are someone who is beautiful. Perhaps moreso because we wonder what the story is behind the pain. It's strange, isn't it?

On page 95 Valentine describes her burns as a filter that screen out everyone false in her life. She describes herself as “an acquired taste for a select few.” Do you think we should – through God’s mercy and grace – acquire a filter of our own so that we live in more real and meaningful relationships with God and man? Can the “filter” be found only amid trial or suffering?

That's such a hard question to answer because we all have our reasons for being who we are. Some of us have no filter, some have one with a grid so tiny and tight nothing can get through. It would be glib of me to say we have to be thoroughly open and transparent and vulnerable, but who can really be that way? I guess, for me, what I hope for is the grace to be who I need to be today with the people God sends my way. If I think too much about being wide open for the rest of my life, it scares me. But today, well, maybe I can handle just today. And yes, I think suffering goes a long way in allowing us to have full, meaningful relationships with both God and man. I've seen too many people who have been through trials or are going through them who have such a way of shining God's love. Maybe suffering is indeed a filter that helps us keeps the truly unimportant from getting inside and agitating us.

On page 289 Augustine speaks rather brutally of the emotions that often accompany our quest for forgiveness; “My heart is crushed – just as it should be. I deserve no less. This is a tired and confusing world, and sometimes doing the right thing makes us feel worse.” Why is it so hard to repent and ask for forgiveness? Is it because it often hurts or is it just totally anathema to the human heart?

I think it's hard to ask forgiveness because we don't want to be turned down. That suggests you'll always be unforgiven. But maybe closer to the top of our emotional chain is just pure old-fashioned pride. To ask someone's forgiveness is to admit we're wrong, or that we've committed a sin against someone, and in a day and age where being right is more important than being loving, asking forgiveness becomes that much more difficult.

What exciting things is God doing in your life right now? Any words of encouragement you would like to share with your readers?

Well, our family is at a fun stage. Ty, my oldest is a senior in high school. She's preparing to do missions work in Appalachia next year before beginning her Freshman year at University of Kentucky. My middle child, Jake, almost 14, just shot up a good five inches and his voice is changing. Talk about shock and awe. And my youngest, Gwynnie, 11, has a role in the school play. We're planning a two week trip around the country with Jake before he turns 14. It's our rite-of-passage trip. Just Will and I will accompany him. We took Ty on a trip to England when she was 13 and it was such a wonderful parent/child experience. We run a house of hospitality here in our city so we have people coming to stay with us as they travel through quite frequently and it's always fun to gather around the table with a good meal. Will's our cook and he does a great job. There's always something going on around here.

To my readers I'd just like to say that God loves you. I often think if we realized how much God loves us, our lives would never be the same. Thanks so much for having me Kim!

No comments: