“I have heard so many people express their belief that God is an angry God, waiting to pass judgment on them when they fail. I hope after reading my book, they forever see Him as a loving Father who welcomes us to His table with arms open wide.” — Sherri Gragg
This month at the Book Club, we’re featuring a new devotional book, Arms Open Wide: A Call to Linger in the Savior’s Presence, by popular author Sherri Gragg. Here, Gragg explains why she wrote this book and what she hopes to convey to readers about God’s love.
If you had to read just one of your devotions in Arms Open Wide aloud, which one would you pick and why?
That is a really hard decision because each of the devotions, in one way or another, were drawn out of a time in my life when God was working in a very deliberate, meaningful way. However, if I had to choose just one, it would be “Never Too Far The Thief on The Cross.” This devotional gives an account of the crucifixion from the thief’s perspective. I believe the thief’s story is so powerful for us because we each desperately want to know the answer to the question, “Can I ever fall too far away to be brought back into the Arms of Grace?” Jesus’ tender compassion for the thief proclaims that we are never too far away for God’s mercy and redemption to reach us. It is never too late.
How did you get into writing and how did you develop the idea of Arms Open Wide?
Writing has always been a part of my life. I think better with a pen in my hand! Over the years as I was rearing my five children, I did some freelance writing which was great because it taught me how to work with editors and meet deadlines. I learned so much about writing during those years.
Arms Open Wide grew out of my own faith journey. In the very early stages, it was in many ways my love letter to God as I expressed my overwhelming gratitude for the tremendous freedom and healing He was bringing into my life. Arms Open Wide is also a reflection of my longing to share the message of God’s love and compassion with others. I wanted to pass on the wonderful gift I had been given- the good news of God’s grace!
Arms Open Wide is a bit different from a typical devotional. The book has 34 devotions, each of them focused on one of Christ’s interactions with the very real, living, breathing, human beings who crossed His path when He walked the sands of Palestine.
Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” In the spirit of this truth, the first page of each devotional is a beautiful quotation of a passage of scripture from the Old Testament that reflects the New Testament story that is devotion’s focus.
The devotion itself begins on the next page with the New Testament reference at the top of the page which is to be read first. Then the reader is ready to dive into the story itself which is a fictional narrative that is interwoven with history and scripture. I love history, theology, Biblical archeology, and studying about the culture the Bible. I have used all of these things to paint the back story for some of the most dramatic moments in the Gospels.
What do you hope readers get from reading this book?
I believe there were many times in my own faith journey that some of Jesus’ words and actions were interpreted as less loving than they truly were simply because neither I nor my teachers understood the culture of 1st century Palestine! There is so much that the 1st century Middle Eastern peasants around Jesus’ feet automatically understood that gave weight to His teachings.
I know that not everyone enjoys studying the culture, archeology, etc of Jesus’ time as much I do, but I do know that most people love a good story. People love a good story because it not only teaches us, it touches our hearts. It is my hope that I can weave all of the solid research that has been so life giving to me in a good story so that my readers may discover God to be far kinder, sweeter, and more gracious than they ever knew. I have heard so many people express their belief that God is an angry God, waiting to pass judgment on them when they fail. I hope after reading my book, they forever see Him as a loving Father who welcomes us to His table with arms open wide.