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INTERVIEW: Gregory K. Popcak, Ph.D.

Q. How did you come up with the concept for Broken Gods?

Christians often talk about how we’re “broken” and how we need to be saved but that doesn’t

resonate with a lot of people. They think Christians mean that people are terrible, horrible,

no‐good, very bad creatures and that God wants us to sit around all day in our awfulness feeling

awful about ourselves. But that’s not it at all!  Human beings are wonderful creatures! God, himself, pronounced us, “very good” (Gen 1:30) at the beginning of time.

And yet, as good as we are, we were made for so much more. We were made to be gods‐‐perfect, immortal, utterly confident in who we were, where we were going, and how we were going to get there. Our First Parent’s sin ripped all of that away from us and we became, in a sense, broken gods–separated, lost in the cosmos, alone, naked and ashamed.  But God never gave up on his original plan for us and he continues to work through all time and space to complete in us a work so wonderful we can’t even begin to imagine it.  He intends to restore the divine light within us and make us the gods we were always meant to be.

 

Q. In the book you make the claim that God truly intends to make each and every one of us a god. Those are bold words! Where do they originate? And what do they mean for Christians today?

They are bold words, so bold they would be blasphemous if they weren’t spoken by Jesus himself in the Gospel of John (Jn 10:34).  In fact, the idea that God intends to make us gods is a central doctrine of Christianity that was universally accepted by 1st Century Christians, by the Church Fathers, and even the Protestant reformers. The concept theologians refer to as “divinization” is mostly lost to Christians today but more than a moldy theological concept, it has profound, practical implications. In fact, it recasts our entire understanding of our Christian faith!

Many people believe that being Christian is about trying to be good, and since they feel like they can be good on their own‐‐or at least good enough‐‐they don’t feel they really need God. But that has never been the Christian view. Christians do not believe we need God to make us good. We need God to make us gods! Only by developing the kind of relationship with God that allows him to transform our deepest and even darkest desires into the engines of our ultimate perfection can we hope to achieve the destiny for which we were created; to be gods who can live with God and be loved by God for all eternity.

 

Q. One of the things that you talk about in the book is the idea that sometimes our darkest desires can reveal God’s plan for transformation in our lives. Without giving away the entire book, can you give us a glimpse into how this works?

Hidden behind our deepest and even darkest desires are seven basic, human longings; namely, the ache for abundance, dignity, justice, peace, trust, well‐being, and authentic love. Everything we do‐‐even the stupid, offensive, and destructive things‐‐represents our feeble attempts to satisfy one or several of these unconscious longings.

When we act in ways that disappoint or hurt ourselves and others, we become consumed with guilt, anger, self‐criticism and sometimes hopelessness that things can ever get any better for us. God wishes to deliver us from this pain. He longs to show us, step‐by‐step, how to authentically satisfy these deepest longings woven into the fabric of our soul. When we let God teach us how to meet these longings according to his plan, he not only frees us from fear and want and leads us to abundance in this life, he ultimately transforms us into gods who, through his grace, can achieve perfection, immortality, and ultimate love in the next.

 

Q. Who is the target audience for your book?

This book is for people who experience an ache in their hearts that tells them that they were made for “more” but struggle to know what that longing really means much less how they can begin to satisfy it. Readers will encounter powerful insights and surprisingly practical tips to help them uncover the spiritual pathways that lead to ultimate fulfillment, unconquerable love, and unimaginable joy.

 

 

Q. What do you hope readers will take away from Broken Gods?

I want readers to discover the joy of knowing that all the people in their lives who told them that they should sit down, be quiet, and stop dreaming are wrong. In fact, our biggest dreams cannot begin compare to the shocking, even scandalous abundance God imagines for us. It is my hope that Broken Gods will reawaken readers’ spiritual imaginations so they can begin to see and experience the amazing transformation God intends to bring to pass in their hearts and in their lives.

 

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Broken Gods isn’t just another self-help book. It reveals the stunning truth that God wants to satisfy every longing of our hearts in ways that both lead to total fulfillment in this life and ultimate fulfillment in the next. In Broken Gods, readers will find a treasure map that leads to hope for weary hearts, joy for troubled times, and strength to live every part of their lives more abundantly.

 

To request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Dr. Gregory Popcak, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, kamoore@penguinrandomhouse.com, 719-268-1936.

 


BLOG TOUR: Five Years in Heaven, Apr. 29-May 6, 2015

To celebrate the release of FIVE YEARS IN HEAVEN we’re setting off on a virtual book tour to six of the blogosphere’s finest Catholic blogs! Stops on the tour will feature author interviews with John Schlimm, behind the scenes photos of Sister Augustine and her famous pottery, and a chance to win a copy of FIVE YEARS IN HEAVEN!

We’re grateful to our blogging friends for sharing their thoughts and hosting stops on the tour. We encourage you to visit their sites (links below) and read their reviews.

4/29 – Catholic Foodie (podcast)

4/30 – Catholic Book Blogger (review)

5/1 – Catholic Book Blogger (giveaway)

5/2 – Catholic Drinkie (interview)

5/3 – Amazing Catechists (review)

5/4 – Catholic Book Blogger (interview)

5/5 – Simple Mama (review + photos)

5/6 – Seasons of Grace (review)

 

About the Book

In his new memoir, FIVE YEARS IN HEAVEN: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life’s Greatest Questions, award-winning author John Schlimm writes a poignant and heartfelt story of friendship and second chances not seen since Tuesdays with Morrie.

At age thirty-one, lost and alone at a crucial crossroads in his life, John found Heaven on earth. On the grounds of a 150-year–old monastery, he met 87-year-old Sister Augustine, the wise and humble artist at the convent’s ceramic shop. Over the next five years, John visited Sister just about every week. Their hundreds of visits became a master class in the meaning of life, love, and starting over, with a lot of laughter along the way.

 

 About the Author

John Schlimm is a Harvard-trained educator, artist, and award-winning writer. He has traveled the country speaking about inspirational/motivational topics, cooking, entertaining, and public relations, including his “Embrace Compassion, Change the World” keynote address on Capitol Hill. He has appeared on such national media outlets as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, NPR, Martha Stewart Living’s Everyday Food, The Splendid Table, QVC, and Fox & Friends. John also recently debuted his participatory art piece THE SMILE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (is yours) with installations in Canada and Washington, D.C.

To request a review copy or to schedule an interview with John Schlimm, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, at kamoore@penguinrandomhouse.com or 719-268-1936.

 


INTERVIEW: John Schlimm

 

 Q. What was the single thing you loved most about Sister Augustine?

That’s like asking someone what they love most about a sunny day in paradise. Everything!

I loved Sister’s humility and simplicity, her grace, the peace that surrounded her, the divine wisdom and answers she was willing to share with me, and her witty sense of humor (I can still hear us laughing!).

She reminded me on a daily basis that life is beautiful. No matter what joys or sorrows come our way, she taught me to approach every situation with a smile and gratitude, and the understanding that life is precious and beautiful, in all its many forms.

 

Q. What are some of the most important lessons you learned from Sister Augustine?

To forgive. To be grateful for everything in my life, even the challenges. To laugh a lot.

 

Q. When you first met Sister Augustine, you were 31 and she was 87. What did your friendship teach you about the value of intergenerational relationships?

Sister Augustine and I were separated in age by fifty-six years, which was very easy to forget since she was so young-at-heart. She would have been 100 years old this year (2015).

Our unlikely friendship taught me that you are never too old or too young to be both a teacher and a student. Life is about learning from one another, and sharing lives—the good and the bad. We are each other’s responsibility. I also learned how to be quiet and listen when an extraordinary teacher is sitting across the table from me.

 

Q. Early in the book you write about the date you met Sister Augustine and how you will always remember it. You write, “…I realized how rare it is to know the exact day you met someone who would change your life so profoundly. That date is now circled on my calendar and marked with a little star every year. Like a favorite destination on a map.” When you first met Sister Augustine, did you know she was going to be such an important part of your life?

I will forever see that twinkle in Sister Augustine’s eye from the first time I met her, and every one of the hundreds of our visits thereafter. She was barely over five-feet tall, slightly hunched, dressed in a full, traditional habit along with a denim bib-apron smeared with paint, and she had the voice of a loving grandmother.

From the moment I met Sister Augustine and walked into her extraordinary world, I knew I had been blessed with a very special teacher and friend. I’m so excited that now every reader will also get to meet her and have that experience when they enter FIVE YEARS IN HEAVEN with me!

 

Q. In chapter five you share a quote from Sister Augustine about God’s timing. She said, “God has His ways. His reasoning may not seem obvious to us at the time, but someday you’ll look back and say, ‘That’s exactly how my life had to happen, good and bad, right down to the second, to get me where I am.’”Have you had moments of revelation like that in your life?

That beautiful lesson from Sister Augustine was always on my mind as I was writing FIVE YEARS IN HEAVEN. The book itself and my transformation throughout that period and in the years since have confirmed what she was telling me. In fact, that lesson revolutionized how I look at every moment of my life, especially the challenges. I am now grateful for those challenges and hardships, and embrace them as stepping stones in my journey ahead.

 

Q. What do you hope people will take away from the book?

The questions that Sister Augustine and I discussed are universal. No matter who you are or where you are—regardless of age and circumstances—the questions are ones we all struggle with throughout our lives. I invite readers to pull up a chair and glimpse Heaven on earth as I once did in that sacred place and to find their own inspiration, peace of mind, and meaning in the answers that are revealed.

 

Q. How long did it take you to write the book? What was the writing process like? How did you decide on the title?

Sister Augustine once said to me, “Every story has its time to be told, John.” As readers work their way through FIVE YEARS IN HEAVEN, they will eventually learn the extraordinary and divine reason why this book is in their hands. In fact, it almost didn’t happen. But then there came a moment when I knew it was time to share our story with the world.

As for the actual writing process, from start to finish, the book took just over a year to complete. In this case, I had lived the story and it was still crystal clear in my mind, as if it had all just happened yesterday. I tend to write in marathon sessions. Once the words start flowing for a book project, I barely get up from my computer—only to eat, sleep, and shower.

The title, FIVE YEARS IN HEAVEN, is meant to convey how we all have the opportunity to glimpse Heaven right here on earth. In Sister Augustine’s studio and shop, during those heart-to-heart discussions as well as the lighter moments of laughter, I grew to have a better idea of what Heaven is. Of what the reward is that Heaven promises for each one of us. This book will also give readers that glimpse of Heaven, and will inspire them to recognize the same rare moments and people in their lives.

To request a review copy or to schedule an interview with John Schlimm, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, at kamoore@penguinrandomhouse.com or 719-268-1936.

 



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