What a joy to introduce my friend, Dianne Neal Matthews! Dianne has written numerous devotionals, magazine articles, and newspaper features and her work has appeared in Focus on the Family, The Quiet Hour, LIVE, The Christian Communicator, and websites, including CBN.com. She is the author of The One Year On This Day (which won her the 2006 Writer of the Year Award at the Write-to-Publish Conference–Way to go, Dianne!), and The One Year Women of the Bible, both published by Tyndale House. Dianne is a 2006 CLASS graduate and a member of Advanced Writers & Speakers, Christian Authors Network, and Toastmasters. She and her husband, Richard, have three grown children, a son-in-law currently serving in Afghanistan, and a gorgeous granddaughter. For more information, you can reach Dianne at her website.
Now listen, you don't want to miss an opportunity to win Dianne's book, The One Year Women of the Bible–and it's easy! Simply leave a comment for Dianne or me and you'll automatically be in the drawing for your own personalized copy!
Vonda: Okay, I'm excited to get started! Dianne, it seems to me that the Bible includes a lot more stories of men than women. How did you come up with enough topics about women for 365 devotionals?
Dianne: Well, at first there didn't seem to be enough women in the Bible for a one-year devotional, but some of the women gave me enough material for several days. I used groups of women, witnesses to significant events, women in parables, and "invisible" women, like the mother of the little boy who offered his lunch to Jesus.
Vonda: Hey, that was smart! But you also include contemporary stories. Where did you get the ideas for the opening stories about contemporary women?
Dianne: The contemporary stories are mostly based on real-life women that I've known, heard of, or read about, usually with the details changed to guard identity. I even got a couple of ideas from reading Dear Abby. I also include some stories that are from my imagination, but hopefully true to life.
Vonda: Yep, nobody's safe with us writers around, are they? Now let's change gears here. What was the most surprising thing you learned from researching and writing this book?
Dianne: I think it's the fact that these women lived so long ago, with lifestyles and circumstances vastly different from our own, and yet they had to deal with the same basic problems, temptations, needs, and struggles that we do today. Today's mothers worry about the safety of their children, especially when a school shooting is in the news. Moses' mother gave birth to him at a time when the Egyptian pharaoh had ordered that all Hebrew newborn boys be drowned. Sometimes we suffer from doing something that is acceptable in society's eyes but not in line with God's will. Sarah's choice to give her maid to Abraham had consequences that affected not just her, but the history of two nations. Leah and Rachel demonstrated the ultimate sibling rivalry by competing to see who could give the most sons to their shared husband.
Women in the Bible endured mistreatment, prejudice, rape, and war. Some of them lied and manipulated others. Many of them struggled with dysfunctional relationships. Human nature hasn't changed since the Fall–and neither has the Answer to our problems.
Vonda: Isn't it wonderful that we can personally know the Answer? Now, as a writer, I'm interested in knowing if the experience of writing this book changed you in any way.
Dianne: Actually, I think the process changed how I relate to the people in the Bible. Once I looked at these women from the perspective of my own experiences and emotions, they became more real to me. Before, I found it easy to relate individual verses or passages to my life, but the people in the Bible seemed distant and sometimes unreal. Not anymore–now I see these women as flesh-and-blood people I'd like to meet and have a chat with over a bowl of figs and dates.
Vonda: Or maybe Starbucks? π So, would you say the experience changed your perception of God?
Dianne: Yes, I would. It opened my eyes to the way God sees women. Before God formed Eve, He announced His intention to make a "helper" for Adam. That always sounded like a secondary role to me, until I discovered that the same term is used to refer to God in a number of verses, including Psalm 70:5.
God made woman as the final touch that completed His creation. In the Old Testament, God entrusted women with key roles to carry out His work. In the New Testament, Jesus elevated women in ways that shocked a culture where the men thanked God in prayer that they were not born as women.
Now I have a new appreciation for how highly God values women and how He shapes us in unique ways to carry out His purposes.
Vonda: I'm so glad to hear you say that! Ever since I studied the interactions between Jesus and women, I've felt Jesus had a special place in His heart for us women. He did go against culture and tradition by standing us for us, even against powerful men. What a precious Savior!
But with all the struggles we women deal with, is there one overall message that you hope women take away from this book?
Dianne: There sure is, and that message is found in the very last devotional of the book. I open with a story of an anxious bride starting down the aisle. When she looks at her groom, she sees a reflection of her beauty in his eyes and his intense longing to claim her as his own.
That scenario gives a taste of how God looks at us. He loves us just the way we are, even though we don't see ourselves as desirable, and even when our culture thinks we don't measure up. And He can't wait to claim us as His own for all eternity.
Vonda: What a beautiful thought! And one last question. What do you find most rewarding about writing devotionals?
Dianne: Writing devotionals keeps me excited about how fresh and relevant God's Word is. I love finding ways to illustrate Scriptures and draw out practical applications. And feedback from readers motivates me to keep writing. It's such a blessing when someone tells me that a devotional has spoken to their specific situation, or says that one of my books is a part of their regular quiet time. Just last week a woman in Australia emailed to say how amazed she is that the pages of The One Year Women of the Bible often mirror what's going on in her own life. Comments like that remind me what a privilege this is.
Vonda: Yes, we must remember that–writing is such a privilege. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Now readers, I know you want a copy of this book, so just go ahead and write a quick comment. Someone
is going to win, and it might as well be you! To learn more about Dianne, her books, and her ministry, be sure to check out her website.
Don't forget to check back next week to see who the winner is!
(Photo of women courtesy of www.ChristianPhotos.net)
And now, as we face a new week, let's be reminded that followers of Jesus were never promised an easy life:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24
I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,