Mustard Seeds: Thoughts on the Nature of God and FaithMustard Seeds: Thoughts on the Nature of God and Faith
Lynn Coulter
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Sometimes all that you have is a mustard seed of faith. But that may be all you need. In the course of a few years Lynn Coulter lost both her parents, her husband lost his job, and she had an accident which dislocated her left shoulder. When it rains, it pours, but in the midst of trials and doubts that arise from them, God still speaks. These collected essays tell of the small and profound ways that God speaks through His Word, nature and the kindness of others, to keep the seed of faith alive.

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Q) Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

A) I'm a native Southerner who graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from Georgia State University. My husband, Bill, and I have one son, who is pursuing and engineering degree at Georgia Southern University. We live in the metro Atlanta area. After college, I worked for Eastern Air Lines, until the company went bankrupt and closed its doors. Since my son was only two years old at the time, I started freelancing so that I could stay at home with him. Eventually my feature articles, essays, and book reviews began appearing in magazines and newspapers. There were many days when we dined on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and took our vacations in a tent at a state park, but I felt fortunate to work from home. I love my family very much.

Q) How did you become interested in writing?

A) When I was a child, my mother read me bedtime stories and bought books for me at the school book fair, so I fell in love with the written word at an early age. Later, I started keeping a journal as an assignment for a high school lit class. Thanks to my teacher's encouragement, I kept writing after the school year ended, and I've never really stopped. Also, I'm naturally curious about many different things and many different people, and writing allows me to explore them all. I've hiked with llamas into the Rio Gorge; fished for trout on Wyoming's Madison River; interviewed a globe-trotting NBC new correspondent; held a swan (with permission and supervision--swans are dangerous, so never try that yourself!); cruised the Mississippi River on a steamboat; learned to can jam and jellies at a Danish folk school, and met beekeepers, artists, orchid growers, model train hobbyists, hang glider pilots, wildlife researchers, monks, and lots of wonderful kids. How can you top a job like writing?

Q) What compelled you to write a book on this subject?

A) This book was born of grief and loss. My family went through a series of trials beginning in 2001, when my mother passed away and my husband Bill lost his job in the national recession. It took an entire year for another job to surface, and when it did, Bill had to relocate to another city, so our family was split up for awhile. Just as our finances were stretched to the breaking point, my father passed away. During that period, I asked God for help and found myself struggling to hold onto my faith. It took me a long time to see God's hand in my life, and His grace often surfaced in small mercies--that's what inspired the title "Mustard Seeds." I had to realize that God love us, really, truly, deeply loves us, no matter what life throws our way, and that we can find hope and strength in Him. I hope this small book encourages others who may be struggling too.

Q) What is the main theme or point that you want readers to understand from reading your book? Are there any other themes present in the book?

A) The most important thing to know is that God loves us. Nothing diminishes our Heavenly Father's care--not death or debt, not the loss of a job or good health--and He gave us His own Son, Jesus, to remind us how deep and unchanging His love is. That's enough to build your life on, even if you think it's shattered or ruined.

Q) Are there some specific lessons you hope readers will learn and apply to their lives after reading your book?

A) I hope people will understand then even when we lose our grip on faith, God does not lose His grip on us, and He can and will restore us. There are things we can do when faith gets weak; we can join a community of fellow believers. We can reach out to help others. We can open our Bibles, find a quiet place to read and pray, and listen for God's leading. We can put our hope and trust in Jesus. We won't be disappointed.

Q) Do you have a favorite part of the book or a favorite chapter?

A) I liked writing about the silent retreat I took at a monastery near Atlanta, which is described in the first chapter. At first I thought that going there was a mistake. The silence was almost eerie, because we're so bombarded nowadays with the noise of cell phones and computers and other people. And I'm not Catholic, so I found the services rather confusing, and I thought: oh, no. I shouldn't have come here. But after the first day, the quiet atmosphere really helped, and I felt very peaceful. I sat by the lake on the grounds, where I prayed and read, and later, I attended a talk given by one of the monks. He happened to tend the monastery garden, and when he spoke about digging into God's Word, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I'm a gardener too, and I understood what he was saying. It was exactly what I needed to hear: that we have to be patient and let God work in our lives. We have to allow His word soak into our hearts. Seeds grow when they're planted and nourished by the sun and rain. Faith grows when we let God's love nourish our hearts.

Q) What makes your book different than any other books similar to yours that are in circulation today?

A) I think the things that led me to write this may be different from some things that lead other people to write books. I nearly lost hope during a time in my life when everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It's not hard to have when everyone in your family is healthy, and there's money in the bank, and a roof over your head. It's harder when you're doing the best you can and every day is a struggle. You start to wonder where God is, and what He's doing in Your life. You can even start to question if He's there. But the Bible promises that when we look for God, we'll find Him, and it's true. He drew me back to Him through a million little things. So my faith grew in the trenches, so to speak.

Q) How does the book intertwine with God's call on your life and how you are currently serving Him?

A) This book started as an essay for Delta Air Lines' Sky magazine, and after it ran, the editors received a number of emails about it. I was surprised--I never dreamed my story would evoke that kind of response. But many of the people who wrote said that they too, longed for God in this noisy, busy world, which is so often hostile to people of faith. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to use my writing to share what I had learned. I also like to hang out with my son and his college age friends (who tolerate me, I'm happy to say!). They're fun and lively and intellectually sharp. Many are away from home for the first time, and they have a lot of curiosity and energy. I want them to feel welcome in our home, and to feel welcome to talk about God her, since they are not encouraged to talk about Him on secular campuses. So I try to serve listening to others discuss their faith journeys, and sharing my experiences, if they want to hear about them.

Q) Do you have a favorite Scripture verse? What is it and why is it important to you?

A) I have several! One of my favorite passages has always been Matthew 6:25-34, which assures us that God will take care of us, just as he cares for the wildflowers and the sparrows. (You might guess a gardener would like that.) But when life got hard, I found out that I wasn't obeying those verses. I worried plenty, and I didn't surrender my problems to God as I should have. That's when I found another passage, Isaiah 43:1-2, that I copied onto an idex card and carried around in my purse for encouragement. "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine." I needed to hear that again and again: do not fear. You are Mine. There is tremendous power in those words.

Q) Are there any authors that either influenced you personally or influenced your style of writing? Who are they and how did they influence you?

A) Max Lucado is a favorite. I enjoy the way he conveys his message by telling stories, and his love for Jesus shines through on every page. His books are as reassuring as a warm blanket is for a child. Although she is not strictly a spiritual writer, I admire fellow Georgian Amy Blackmarr for the beauty of her prose, and for the she depicts the wonders of the natural world around us. Beth Moore is a fine teacher, and her work is uplifting and encouraging to anyone who's on a journey towards faith.

Q) When you are not reading, what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?

A) I'm crazy about reading, and there's a stack of unfinished books by my bed that is tall enough to use for a nightstand. Every kind of book interests me, from history to the natural science, and literary fiction to young adult novels. I like to collect picture books for their wonderful artwork. I enjoy traveling, and the beach and picking up sea glass and seashells (only if the resident crab or critter is gone, though; I won't take anything alive). I'm learning to knit--all those beautiful yarns are so enticing. I like to ride my bike and hike in the woods. I used to do stained glass artwork, counted cross stitch, and quilting and I still sew when I can. I even made shirts for my husband--plaids, with Western style yokes and snaps! That was before my son time now. Today, I'm happy to grab a quick dinner with my family and settle in for a movie night at home.

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