On the blog this week, I’m joined by the wonderful Lynn Austin!
If you struggle with living out your faith in this culture, if you wonder about what all the buzz is about with recent and upcoming adaptations of Bible stories, if you (let’s be honest) have a hard time getting through the prophets without falling asleep, there’s something here for you. Pull up a chair, sip of cup of coffee, and listen in as we chat about ancient times, Sunday School stories, and stained glass windows.
Amy: What made you decide to write your series THE RESTORATION CHRONICLES?
I believe there is so much we can learn from studying Scripture, and that its truths have a great deal of relevance to our modern lives. In talking about Israel’s history, the apostle Paul wrote, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us” (1 Cor. 10:11). I’ve heard many people say that they find the Bible difficult to read, so it’s my prayer that Keepers of the Covenant and the other books in the series will bring the Bible to life for those readers. I hope they’ll begin to see that the men and women in scripture were very much like us, and that they will be inspired by the walk of faith of biblical people like Ezra.
Amy: Absolutely. I felt that way reading Keepers of the Covenant, especially since it deals with a lesser-known character from a less-preached-on portion of the Bible. But I’m not the only one paying attention to the Old Testament these days. There seems to be a lot of interest in Bible stories and times right now (The Bible miniseries, various recent movies, etc). Why do you think even people who aren’t Christians are still interested in stories from the Bible?
Lynn: I think there are a lot of people who have a basic knowledge of the “classic” Bible stories such as Noah or Jonah—maybe from bedtime stories or from attending Sunday school or vacation Bible School—so they are curious about seeing them dramatized. I also believe there is a deep longing for God in all our hearts, and for knowledge of the unseen spiritual realm. Maybe it’s this longing that is drawing them.
Amy: Let me just play devil’s advocate here for a moment: regarding biblical fiction in general, what would you say to someone who worried that fictional accounts of Bible stories might be reading too much into scripture or even distorting it?
Lynn: I would tell them that I understand their concern and assure them that I do extensive research before I begin writing. My goal is to stay as close to the scriptural text as possible and not add to it, but merely to fill in some of the historical and cultural background. I hope that my novels will bring the Bible to life and not only help readers visualize the stories, but also to see biblical characters as real flesh-and-blood people. I don’t want to replace scripture with a novel, but to draw readers back to the Bible so they will read it for themselves and maybe understand it a bit better.
Amy: Keepers of the Covenant focuses on the scholar-turned-leader Ezra. Which of Ezra’s many challenges do you think readers will relate to the most?
Lynn: I think all of us struggle to find the balance between being a productive member of our society and culture, yet not compromising our faith or God’s principles. We’re taught to have “the mind of Christ,” yet we face so many competing voices, telling us what’s right and what’s wrong, what we should believe and how we should live. One of Ezra’s biggest challenges was confronting the mixed marriages, which were a threat to the Jewish community. We also face this “mixture” whenever we’re tempted to let the culture determine our choices instead of God’s Word.
Amy: If you could meet the real Ezra, what’s one question you’d like to ask him?
Lynn: I would ask him to describe his reaction when he first heard the King’s edict that all the Jews in the empire would be annihilated in a single day. What did that news do to his faith in God? Was he angry with God for allowing such a thing or did he continue to trust, no matter what? And if his faith did hold strong, how did he acquire such faith?
Amy: Wow. Those are great questions. (I wish we could get Ezra to guest post on the blog now, too.) Do you have any tips for readers who are inspired to study books like Ezra or Nehemiah after reading THE RESTORATION CHRONICLES?
Lynn: I really enjoy using a study Bible as I read scripture to help me understand the historical background and customs. For instance, I’ve used the NIV Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, and the Archaeological Study Bible. When I read the Bible each day, I also keep a journal where I record what’s going on in my life and what I learned from scripture that particular day and how it applies to me.
Amy: Finally, just for fun: if you had a stained glass window depicting one scene from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament that have been meaningful to you, which would they be?
Lynn: From the Old Testament, I would choose the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. It’s such a clear picture to me of how we need to obey God’s word even when we don’t understand it or agree with it, trusting God for the outcome. From the New Testament, I would choose the boy who gave his loaves and fishes to Jesus. It would remind me to faithfully give what I have to Christ, even if it doesn’t seem like much, trusting that He is able to multiply my meager efforts to bless others.
Thanks so much, Lynn, for your thoughtful answers! And, readers, now I’ll put that last question to you: if you had a stained glass window depicting one scene from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament that have been meaningful to you, which would they be and why?