Tuesday, April 28, 2020

This Life We Share: Author Interview with Maggie Wallem Rowe

Maggie Wallem Rowe, author of
This Life We Share (NavPress)
Maggie Wallem Rowe is an extraordinary woman whose writing talent has long impressed me. Maggie's zest for life and her fierce commitment to the church are an inspiration. She has spent years in Christian publishing advocating for other writers. And her knack for cheering others on spills over into every friendship. Maggie has been one of my biggest cheerleaders and dearest friends for the whole 8 years I've known her. I am absolutely delighted that her first book is due out in just over a week!

Here's my official endorsement, which you'll find inside the cover:
"Maggie has spent decades following Jesus--as a pastor's wife, coworker, mother, daughter, and friend. Now she puts pen to page to share the wisdom she's learned along the way. Maggie has a gift for seeing the world and finding meaning in ordinary days, capturing it in delightful prose. She also has the gift of insight, the ability to harness her own self-awareness for the good of others. In this book, you'll find more than good advice; I expect you'll find a new friend."
But don't just take my word for it, This Life We Share carries endorsements by Beth Moore, Sandra McCracken, Hugh Hewitt, Carol Kent, Sandra Richter, Gail MacDonald, and Lucinda Secrest McDowell, among others. In short, a whole generation of successful writers has recognized Maggie's keen insight and skill with words, and they have lined up to tell the world all about her first book!

Sadly, my own copy of Maggie's book is held up in postal quarantine in a warehouse somewhere, awaiting clearance for international shipping. While I eagerly await its arrived, I asked Maggie if she would do us the honor of a blog interview. Here's the story behind This Life We Share:

For those who don't know you, please tell us a bit about yourself. Where have you lived and what roles have you played in these places?
I grew up on a farm in rural Illinois and met my husband at Wheaton College. We moved east for seminary and then pastored two churches in New England over a 25-year period. During those years I acted in summer stock productions and community theatre, taught speech and business writing on the college level, and directed women’s ministries for a large regional faith-based organization. We were also very active in our communities and with raising five children - three who were born to us and two more “bonus kids” who joined us through foster care and spent their teenage years with us.  When most of the kids were grown and in college, we accepted a pastorate in the Chicago area and retired from that position 16 years later. While back in Illinois I worked part-time for Wheaton College and then full-time for a Christian publishing house in Public Relations. Nearly two years ago, we relocated to the mountains of western North Carolina where I’ve been writing full-time.  I can’t remember ever being bored!
When I wrote Bearing God's Name, I had in mind a retired high school shop teacher from our church in Oregon named Earl who admitted to me that he had only ever read one book cover to cover (a welding manual, if you must know). I thought if I could help someone like Earl engage with the Old Testament while keeping his attention to the end, it would be a success. Were you picturing someone in particular as you wrote this book?
Great question, Carmen. When I was asked to submit a proposal for the book that eventually became This Life We Share, the publisher specified that he was seeking a Christian living title with devotional elements that would cover “a big waterfront.” It needed to be relevant to young women in college or early in a career as well as older women in assisted living and everyone in between! It was a tall order, but with God's help I hope we’ve succeeded.
You have! You have such a knack for communicating with women of any generation. Your book is a series of 52 devotionals, designed to be read one at a time. Is there a golden thread that runs through the book--one big idea that you want your readers to grasp?
This Life We Share is organized into four major sections: The Inner Journey, The Intentional Journey, The Relational Journey, and The God of Your Journey. While it has 52 reflections with devotional elements (scripture and points of connection for discussion), it’s actually not a conventional devotional but rather a series of essays on several dozen different topics, including those as disparate as infertility, immigration, and the imposter syndrome! My prayer is that women of faith or those who are seeking will find empathy and encouragement as well as the assurance that they are not alone on our shared journey.
What has been the most joyful part of writing this book?
I have loved writing since I was a child, but honestly I never thought anyone would pay me to publish the type of candid, confessional essays I write! Speaking and teaching is a sweet spot for me, but you can only reach so many people live and in person. To have a publisher create this beautiful gift book in hardcover has been a tremendous affirmation that I never expected.
What a blessing! One thing I admire about you is the way you've pursued your dreams and your calling at an age when some are slowing down and pulling out their knitting needles. I watched you get your MA in Biblical Studies at almost 60 and now you're publishing your first book at 65. What would you say to readers who have hung onto their dreams for decades?
Don’t pay attention to your chronological age! Honestly, I have known women who were “old” at 30 when they stopped asking questions and seeking to learn from new experiences. I have always admired women in the later seasons of life who were game for trying new things.  And what a joy to connect with a publisher who believes that older women have wisdom to share!
Maggie, you had over a decade of experience as a book publicist before you wrote your first book, so you know how this industry works. How is the CoronaVirus pandemic disrupting the normal process of your book release?
Thankfully the book was printed and bound here in the US, so it is releasing on time May 5. As with every other book published this spring, however, all physical events have been postponed. I was so looking forward to launch events here in North Carolina, back in the Chicago area and also in New England. I’ll have to wait longer for those. The pandemic has also affected book delivery as major suppliers like Amazon have prioritized shipments of household goods over new titles. Thankfully my publisher, NavPress, has an alliance with Tyndale House, the world’s largest independent faith-based publisher. The warehouse is operational and the publisher has been able to offer direct fulfillment, meaning readers who order online are actually receiving their copies early!
That is good news! How can appreciative readers help your book reach more people? What are some practical things we can do that make a difference?
I’d be grateful if readers would share your blogpost with this interview and the buy link, Carmen! They can order from Amazon here or directly from the publisher here. Book proceeds go to further the worldwide ministry of The Navigators. I also welcome visits to my online home at www.MaggieRowe.com where I share “Views From the Ridge” every week on my blog.
Perhaps readers are still looking for a Mother's Day Gift. Even if you can't see your mother due to the pandemic, you can send her your love in the form of this beautiful book! 

Maggie, do you have hopes of writing another book? If so, do you have an idea of what it will be about?
Well, I’ll share a bit of a secret. I actually submitted a new book proposal just today! A publisher reached out to me recently with a specific idea after reading one of my especially quirky blogposts. We’ll see where it leads. (You heard it here first, folks!) 
Hurrah! So delighted to hear this. Thanks, Maggie, for taking the time to tell us about your book!
Thank you for this opportunity, Carmen!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Death of Easter: A Holy Week Reflection

I write this on Maundy Thursday, as the ominous events of Good Friday begin to cast their long shadow over the controversial figure of Jesus of Nazareth, and as a global pandemic casts its long shadow over our celebration of Holy Week.

Jesus' mind was made up. He had "set his face to Jerusalem," all the while knowing what awaited him there. Neither the Romans nor the Jewish leaders had room in their power structures for his rule. Each one depended entirely on the status quo -- that delicate political balance that would line their pockets and ensure their children's futures. For Jesus to bear his message to the capital city would require either their capitulation or his death. He knew this. He knew the explosive potential of his own ministry. To keep the peace, to maintain control, they must stamp out alternative visions of reality. People's hearts were too easily swayed by hope. Jesus stirred a dangerous ferment of ideas by speaking of the kingdom of God, and by hinting that the kingdom had come. The discontent of the masses was fanned into flame by his presence. They thought only in terms of military overthrow. And how could they think otherwise? Worldly power structures were all they had ever known.

Still, he went. This fateful act was the reason for his coming. Ironically, the way to win would be to lose. Jesus' demonstration of self-giving love was the most powerful articulation possible of his vision for a new kind of kingdom. It seemed contrary to reason. It was contrary to reason, under the world's system. But Jesus knew something they didn't know. There was another path to victory. A path through death itself.
Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24 NIV)
In these unprecedented times, as the world's leaders seek to contain the spread of the CoronaVirus, the church is not allowed to gather. No Holy Week services? It would seem a defeat for the church to cancel the high point of the Christian year. Sure, we can view sermons online and sing in our living rooms. But it is not the same. We are missing the most joy-filled celebration of our faith, the essence of the Christian message. We are witnessing the untimely death of Easter. But if we've learned anything from the story of Good Friday, we should know that apparent defeats can be something else entirely. The path to victory passes through death itself.

The power of the gospel does not depend on large crowds or full-throated singing or Easter lilies or new dresses. All we need for Easter is an empty tomb. Perhaps this year, more than any other year, we will rediscover this. In the isolation of our own homes, we bury this seed. Wearily, we await the passing of the pandemic's fury. But we do so in hope, because we have an advantage. We know something Jesus' first followers didn't know. We know resurrection. We can already anticipate the joy of long-awaited handshakes and hugs. We scarcely knew how important these were until we were deprived of them. This death of community will be reborn in a deeper embrace.

More importantly, we know that Jesus' resurrection is only the beginning of what God has planned for all of creation. This broken and dying world will be brought to life. Sickness and sorrow will be reversed. Sin defeated. Death conquered. And all things made new. This is our confident hope.

Let us not mistake numbers with power. The Christian movement started under the radar with small groups of shaken believers, gathered in homes shuttered against the fury of Rome. Jesus appeared to them bodily, behind closed doors, and banished their doubts. He can do the same today. His presence and power are limitless.

May the temporary death of our Easter spring forth into a harvest of faith-filled community.

Imagine how those who don't normally attend church will watch online from the safety of their living rooms.

Imagine how the gospel is infusing our homes as we gather to pray and sing and read Scripture within these walls.

May the temporary death of our Easter remind us of our true hope--that God is making all things new.

What if the profound brokenness that characterizes our world fueled our desire for the kingdom of God to come in all its glory?

What if we grasped more deeply the ultimate reason for our joy--not that all is well, but that all will be well.

May the temporary death of our Easter be the beginning of something even better.