Cheryl Ricker’s A Friend in the Storm Interview

A Friend in the Storm

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’s 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? strong>

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.

~~~

You bet. This one’s called, “Expecting”

Life’s contractions press you closer
past the door of time’s tight tomb;
Stuck inside this world of testing,
You’re still safe-sealed in My womb.

As My Spirit flows inside you,
Guaranteeing your reward,
I will grow you, Child of value,
‘til the day I cut the cord.

~~~

Would love too, thanks.

On Time

I hold you in My hourglass,
a chosen grain of sand.
Upside down or right-side up,
you move fast-forward like I planned.

Time is just a pressed-in moment,
just a narrow open door,
made to pass you into splendor
that awaits you on My shore.

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 people’ 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.

19. Explain your dreams and aspirations outside of this book.

Hmm, I have quite a few. How about I share the big one… I dream about writing an inspirational movie and acting in it. I studied acting in high school and college, and took several years of screenwriting within my degree program. Yeah, the possibility probably defies the probability, but hey, you never know. A Friend in the Storm looked pretty improbable, but “with God all things are possible.”

20. Can you share a neat story behind your book?

Love to. My husband works with a guy who’s turned off of Christianity. The same week A Friend in the Storm released, that gentleman lost a close friend. My husband handed him a free copy of A Friend in the Storm, not expecting he’d even receive it. My husband was surprised that every time he walked by the fellow’s office, he was intently reading A Friend in the Storm. The gentleman later told my husband that he wanted to pay for his copy because he thought it was the perfect gift to share with the grieving family.

There’s nothing like watching unbelievers share the gospel this way!

21. Can you share a story of how someone was personally affected by your book?

A lady who had fallen away from God for awhile told me she started talking with God again while reading A Friend in the Storm. She even returned to church. Stories like this is make it worth every sleepless night!

22. Do you envision another gift book? Where do you want to go from here?

I want to write Poetic Prayers for Parents. I’ve already written dozens of these and paired them with Scriptures. The prayers are great because they cover key aspects of kids’ character growth. Parents get sidetracked when praying sometimes. At least I do. A little gift book of poetic prayers for parents could keep us on track.

I’ve also had people asking me when I’m going to write an accompanying A Friend in the Storm journal or Bible study. One group is already using A Friend in the Storm for their book club. I’d love to write a Comfort Bible Study or a Comfort devotional. There are endless possibilites.

23. Tell us about your website, AFriendintheStorm.com.

It took me more than a year to set it up. Umstattd Media did a great job in pulling it together.

I see AFriendInTheStorm.com as a place where people go for comfort, encouragement, and spiritual growth. It has dozens, if not hundreds of great links. People can find a regular dose of hope on my “Fresh Air” blog. See you there!

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2 comments

  1. Thank you, Theresa! Blessings to you and all who read “A Friend in the Storm.”

  2. Thank you! Blessings to you too.

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