Friday, October 01, 2010

A Friend in the Storm


About two and a half years ago I met a precious woman named Cheryl at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. She had recently signed a contract for a book of poetry titled A Friend in the Storm. I immediately fell in love with her joyful heart and couldn’t wait to read her book. I was completely unprepared for how deeply it would minister to me.

Today I have the honor of spreading the news about Cheryl Ricker’s A Friend in the Storm, a gift book of poetry, quotes, and Scripture just released by Zondervan. Although, as you will read in the interview below, Cheryl originally wrote the poems for a friend who was dying of cancer, her words, as well as the quotes and verses, can apply to any season of pain or difficulty. It would make a perfect gift for a friend who is struggling with illness, depression, infertility, a family crisis, loss, grief, or just a time of discouragement.

A Friend in the Storm is available now through Zondervan, Amazon, Christianbooks.com, or at Christian book stores. Here are some words from Cheryl.

1. What prompted you to write A Friend in the Storm?

It all started in 2005 when I went to a Mothers of Preschoolers group. As we were going around the circle introducing ourselves, I learned that one of the ladies, Chantale, had stage four lung cancer.

After a few weeks of getting to know her, she invited me to meet with her in her home for a time of regular prayer and Bible reading. I was honored but nervous because I didn’t know what I’d say. When God reminded me I could write her comfort poetry, it made sense. When I was growing up I used to write poetry to help me deal with my difficult emotions. Besides, people had been turning to the Psalms for comfort for ages.

Some people bring casseroles to hurting friends. I could bring poetry. (Trust me ~ Chantale wouldn’t have wanted my casseroles).

When it turned out she received a lot of comfort in my poetry, I kept writing ~ right until the day she asked if I’d read some of my poems at her funeral.

The month after she died, I attended a writer’s conference because I was interested in publishing a children’s book about a skunk. I quickly came to the conclusion that it stunk, but several people encouraged me to turn my poetry into a comfort gift book. That’s how A Friend in the Storm began. Five years and a thousand revisions ago.

2. How would you describe your book?

A Friend in the Storm is a personal conversation between God and a hurting person. It’s a healing treasury of quotes, Scripture and poetry that leads to lasting hope. It covers forty-five hope-related topics and takes readers on a healing journey through the stages of grief before it crescendos with the splendor of Heaven.

3. What is the big premise behind A Friend in the Storm?

Why would a God who loves so strong,
allow this blow of senseless wrong,
enwrap me in a shock of pain,
that tries to snuff what’s kept me sane.

With failing strength I’m struck down low,
so where’s this peace supposed to flow?
Inside this hole where dreaming dies,
beneath bare groans and screaming cries?

A Friend in the Storm addresses the question in the world: “why would a good and loving God allow this to happen?” The majority of the book is Christ’s response to that question.

4. What is the basic message of your book and what do you want readers to grasp?

I want readers to know that God hasn’t forgotten them. He feels what they feel. He’s holding them. He’s not going to waste their pain. He’s crazy about them.

It’s illustrated in the poem, “You”.

You’re forever on My mind
And in your presence I rejoice;
Singing out your name with angels,
All your sweetness fills My voice.

Keeping loved ones in My keeping,
I embrace a constant calm.
Whole and holy, I will hold you,
ever-after in My palm

5. How do you describe your style of poetry?

It’s a cross between traditional rhyming poetry and literary poetry. My poems have internal rhyme, end rhyme, sound-bonding, alliteration, and lots of metaphors and similes.

They’re light ‘n tight; deep, but also easily understandable.

6. Why did you choose A Friend in the Storm as your title?

It’s had several different titles, but this one definitely describes it best. Christ wants to be our friend in the storm. He offers comfort like no other. Besides, He’s the only one who can truly say, “I’ve been there. I understand.”

I also like the title because the book itself is a friend in the storm, a valuable companion people can reach for in the dark.

7. A Friend in the Storm is filled with unique and memorable imagery. Could you share one with us?

Sure! Here’s a poem entitled, “Artisan”

Poked inside this wind-licked fire
like a piece of molten glass,
Letting prods and pliers take you
in for yet another pass…

Your smoked-color bends to beauty
‘til you’re clearly made My vase,
held together most transparent,
showing off, through you, My face.

8. How is A Friend in the Storm different than other gift books with quotes, Scriptures and poetry?

Most gift books with quotes, Scripture and poetry are written by multiple authors with multiple styles and points of view, so they don’t have the same continuity and flow. Because A Friend in the Storm is written by a single voice, it flows like a story. It’s not just a mish mash of broken thoughts and ideas. There’s a logical progression.

9. How did you select the quotes used throughout A Friend in the Storm?

With difficulty. I went on a long quote hunt. It was like digging for gold. Picture me on the floor of various bookstores, pouring over pages for hours. That’s what I did. I also worked at home because I’m blessed with a huge library of great Christian books.

Finding the perfect quote to fit with the perfect Scripture and poem was as tedious as writing the poems themselves, but in the end, as rewarding.

10. How does A Friend in the Storm change peoples’ lives?

The poetry embraces the heart and emotions, the quotes challenge the mind and intellect, and the Scriptures compel the spirit. It’s only by the Spirit of God that we can expect change. This is what we’re praying for, and this is what’s happening!

11. Your book has some “angry” poems. How are these comforting?

Angry poems are comforting because they honestly reflect what we feel. That’s why David’s Psalms help us. Anger is one of the five stages of grief.

When people hear their feelings expressed they feel understood. When they feel understood, they’re more likely to respond to the One speaking to them. In the case of A Friend in the Storm, that’s Christ. He handles their anger with love and truth. When readers embrace it, they find their deepest comfort.

12. What are the five stages of grief and how does A Friend in the Storm touch on these?

According to the Kubler-Ross model, there’s denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

The poems in A Friend in the Storm touch on all of these through the reader’s point of view. Acceptance takes on a new meaning when readers have an opportunity to accept Christ or trust Him deeper.

13. Who did you write this for?

I wrote A Friend in the Storm for people needing any degree of comfort and peace. It helps people in the midst of job loss, divorce, terminal illness, loss of a loved one, chronic illness, infertility, tragedy and natural disaster, but it also helps people who are just having a bad day.

Of course, it’s also for the friends of people who fit into any of the above categories. A lot of times we want to reach out to our friends, but we don’t know what to do or say. I wrote this book for anybody who likes to share God’s hope. Now they have a meaningful gift they can place in people’s hands.

14. Why does A Friend in the Storm end with a focus on heaven?

Heaven’s our bright, beautiful destination. No pain, no sorrow, no suffering. There’s a powerful peace in remembering this. Whether we’re healthy or sick, living or dying, the Bible tells us to fix our eyes on things above. Heaven gives perspective and stirs a hope that won’t disappoint us.

15. Someone tells you they’ve been diagnosed with an incurable illness. What do you say to them? How can you be a friend in their storm?

First of all, ask God for wisdom. It’s so easy to rely on our own strength. Try to be there for them. Listen, and pay attention to their needs so you know how to help. Don’t say, “call me if you need anything,” because they usually won’t. Instead, offer to help with specific tasks. “Can I bring you a casserole?”

Speak to them with the same kind of love and respect you’d want them to give you.

Offer to pray with them. It’s amazing how many people respond to prayer in desperate times. Not only does it make a difference, but it also sometimes opens the door for more ministry.

16. What are the main things you hope to accomplish through your book?

I want readers to feel loved by God. I want them to be at peace that He’s still in control; He cares about their concerns. I want them to consider why there’s pain and suffering, to remember what God did about it, and to focus on the Day when pain and death with be no more. I pray they’ll know with certainty that heaven is their eternal home. I’d also like them to be excited that they have a faith-building tool they can easily share with others.

17. Where can readers buy A Friend in the Storm?

They can purchase it on my website (afriendinthestorm.com), at most Christian bookstores, Amazon, CBD, Zondervan’s website, and select Barnes and Noble and Borders stores.

If you don’t see A Friend in the Storm at your local bookstore, you can always ask them to order it for you.

18. Explain your hopes and dreams for this book.

I hope my favorite ministries offer it as a valuable resource to their partners and supporters. I also hope it catches on with hospital gift shops, prison ministries, Christian crisis centers, counseling centers and evangelistic organizations.

Thank you to Cheryl for this incredible book!

And thank you to Zondervan for providing me with a copy of A Friend in the Storm for review.

1 Comments:

Blogger Cheryl Ricker said...

Hi Jeanette~

I'm blessed and honored that "A Friend in the Storm" touched you so deeply. That's my mission.

May everyone you share it with be equally surprised and encouraged!

God bless you, my friend!

10:20 AM  

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