Interview with Lisa Underwood Magro, author of “The ‘James’ Bible Study Trolley”

  1.  When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer? Let me begin by telling you a little bit about myself. I am a Christian author and a Bible teacher who loves Jesus! I am married to a wonderful man whose name is Rick and I have two precious stepsons: Michael and Nick. Rick and I reside in Chattanooga, Tennessee where we enjoy spending time with our sons, family and friends. We enjoy traveling, walking and biking as well.

Michael, my oldest stepson, is actively involved in our church and teaches our middle-school students. The Lord has and is using Michael in a wonderful way to help our students in teaching them about Jesus as well as counseling them with the struggles and challenges they face today. Nick, my youngest stepson, has been on a mission trip and has participated in activities with students from our church as well.

I went to Seminary and have a Master’s degree in Bible. After that, Rick suggested I enroll in the Seminary’s Doctoral program. Now let’s return to the question I was asked: When did it dawn on me about being a writer? I guess when Rick told me I would have to write a book in the Doctoral program. My reply was, “You have to be kidding me!” With the Lord Jesus’ help, I wrote, “The Door”, which was my doctoral thesis and exclusively about Him. I went on to publish it as well as an adult “Genesis” Bible study.  My publisher went out of business.  The Lord showed me another publisher, CreateSpace. I started writing Bible Studies of the books of the Bible, which are in a trolley tour format.

Our family has travelled to various cities and at times we have ridden the city trolley tours. On these city tours, our family would get to the city trolley, pay for our trolley tickets and hop aboard the trolley. On the trolley, they would have a trolley tour guide who would explain about the city and the different attractions where the driver would stop.

For example, in Boston we hopped on the trolley and the trolley tour guide told us about the city and the various attractions such as the USS Constitution, Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, Old State House, Boston Common and Faneuil Hall. If we wanted to visit the attraction, we would hop off the trolley, visit the attraction and wait at the trolley stop for the next trolley. We learned a lot about Boston from the city trolley tour.

“The ‘James’ Bible Study Trolley” is setup in the same way as a city trolley tour. On the trolley tour, I am your trolley tour guide. We will study the book of James and stop at different times and talk about some of the things mentioned in James. We talk about how the book of James relates to us today. At the end of the trolley tour, we return to the trolley station. It is written in a trolley tour format using the question and answer style of learning. Unscrambling words, yes or no questions, multiple choice, and fill in the blanks are examples of the types of learning techniques included in the Bible study.

  1. What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?“The ‘James’ Bible Study Trolley” shows how the Bible relates to us today. In “The ‘James’ Bible Study Trolley”, we talk about: “What faith is?,” ”Got Temptation?” as well as “To Talk or Not to Talk.” Today, we all need to know what faith is. We all have been tempted in one way or another and we all have said things we should not have said. At least I have.

Also, for example, in “The ‘Genesis’ Bible Study Trolley” – Series 1 of 5, we talk about the creation. Did you know before anything was created that God existed? Actually, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit were all present at Creation. How do I know? In Genesis 1:1 we read God created the heavens and the earth.

How do I know Jesus was present at creation with God? Let’s read John 1:1-2. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  Who is the “Word”? Jesus, who is God’s Son, is the Word. (See John 1:14). Jesus became flesh and lived among us. Think about that. Jesus became flesh and lived with people, like us, on this earth. Isn’t that amazing! I think so! To confirm this, we read in the New Testament of His birth as well as His life on earth.

The Holy Spirit was present at creation as well. Let’s return to Genesis 1:2. Who was hovering over the face of the waters? The Spirit of God.  God the Father, Jesus, God’s Son and the Holy Spirit were all present at creation. Isn’t that incredible?

Also, in “The ‘Genesis’ Bible Study Trolley” (Series 1), we read in Genesis 2:7 how the Lord God formed man. We see the personal and close-up creation of man by God. Wow!  Can you picture that scene? God created man from the dust of the ground. Picture God taking the dust of the earth and forming a man. God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life and what happened? Adam became physically alive!

When I think of how God created us, I am so amazed because it is so fascinating. Let’s have a quick lesson in basic anatomy.  For example, do you have any idea how many bones are in the adult human body?  If you said, 206, you are correct. Do you have any idea how many muscles are in the body? If you said, around 640, you are correct.

 

There is a lot to learn about the human body, including all of its functions and systems. Just think about how many organs are in the human body.  Let’s name a few. The heart, the liver, the spleen, the skin, which is the largest organ. Each and every organ has its own size, function and purpose. Our bodies could not properly operate without each organ. The human brain is one of the most complex organs in the human body.

 

Also, what about our body systems?  Let’s name a few such as the nervous system, the muscular system, the digestive system, the cardiovascular system and the skeletal system. Think about how fast our blood travels inside our physical body. Think about how many times our heart beats in a single day. With this in mind, think about how intricately we are made. Take care of the body God has given you on this earth. God is so amazing!

In “The ‘Jonah’ Bible Study Trolley”, we learn that God is everywhere, even in the belly of a fish and also how important it is to make the right choices. In “The ‘Esther’ Bible Study Trolley”, we see how God works behind the scenes and uses a young Jewess orphan in promoting her to be Queen in order to save His people from destruction of their enemies. In “The ‘Ruth’ Bible Study Trolley”, one of the topics we talk about is what it means to be virtuous.

These Bible Studies are written to help people understand how Jesus, who is so very important, and the Bible relates to them today.

  1. What inspires you to write? I am inspired to write Bible studies to help people understand how the Bible relates to them today. For example, in the Bible we learn who God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are.
  2. How important is research to you when writing a book? I think research is extremely important, especially in my situation, to know the Bible and what it says on a particular subject.  I would not want to mislead anyone nor would I want to be misled.
  3. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand? My best place to write is at our kitchen table.  At the beginning of my writing, I tried a fountain pen, but found the computer is easy and faster.
  4. How often do I write? When I begin writing a Bible study, I like to finish my book pretty fast. Then I may skip a couple of weeks or months.
  5. How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something? When I began to write my first book, “The Door,” I believe I wrote it in three months.  Some days I write all day.  I get so caught up in the Bible the hours fly by.
  6. Have you ever designed your own book cover? My first book, “The Door,” was designed by my publisher, who did a wonderful job. My second book, “Genesis,” was designed by the same publisher. However, I suggested what I wanted it to look like.

“The ‘James’ Bible Study Trolley” was designed by me.  I have no doubt the Lord helped me with the cover. The front cover is the Chattanooga Trolley and the boys in the pictures are my stepsons when they were younger captured on the Chicago Trolley.

  1. What is your motivation for writing more? My motivation for writing more of these Bible studies is that I learn from writing them as well as helping other people study the Bible and how it relates to them today.

When I was a teenager, I did a Bible study through the mail and enjoyed them. I never thought as an adult, I would be writing Bible studies.

With these Bible studies, someone, with their Bible, can complete the answers as he or she goes along through the study.  Or, a person can complete the Bible Study and then go back and check their answers in the Bible and see how many they got correct. These Bible studies are for ages 12-102. They are a simple and fun way to study the Bible.

When I read over the draft copy of a Bible study, I will go through the Bible study without my Bible to see how much I know of that particular book. Then, with my Bible, I will check my answers and do corrections if necessary. In my experience, when I have to write down an answer, it helps me to learn it.

Let me say, if someone is a Christian, the Bible, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is all he or she needs to study the Bible.

  1. Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors? I like traveling and staying indoors. Rick and I just returned from Alaska, which was our 50th state to explore. We gave out some of the Bible Study Trolley books to people we met. It is a great way to market my books as well as meeting some incredible people. For example, on this Alaska trip, we were delighted to have meet a brother and sister from Switzerland, a couple from Maine as well as a family from Hong Kong.

In a few of my Bible Study Trolley books I have incorporated some of the wonderful things we have seen while on our travels.

  1. Do you enjoy books signings? I have been honored to have done several book signings, which have mainly been with Lifeway Christian Stores.  The Lifeway in Chattanooga, at the Hamilton Place location, has been wonderful to provide me so many opportunities to promote my books.
  2. What do I do in my free time? In my free time, I read a chapter from the book of the Bible that I am in currently. I try to read a chapter, or more, at night and when I finish reading the Bible, I start over. I love spending time with my husband, sons, family and friends. I like working on crafts: jewelry, quilting, fabric coloring, painting, scrapbooks as well as pretty much any craft. I enjoy walking. Also, I get excited when I find a sale on clothes.
  3. Do I have a library at home? I have a library in my study. My books are Bible studies from Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Dr. David Jeremiah as well as others. I have books from Dr. Charles Stanley, Dr. Lutzer and others.  I have commentaries as well.
  4. Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write? When it comes to writing, I need to be in a quiet place, preferably alone.  I usually write when I am by myself at home with no television noise, totally quiet. I also like to write at our kitchen table. The lighting is great and I have room to put my Bible and commentaries on the table.
  5. Were your parents supportive of your choice of career? My parents have been very supportive of my writing.  My Mom is one of my editors and my Dad is a Baptist Minister.
  6. What genre of book do you think should be most adopted for kids in school?I think the Bible should be adopted for kids in school. I believe more Bible classes should be instituted in the schools as well.
  7. Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs? I do enjoy discussing my upcoming ideas with Rick, my husband.  He is my chief editor as well as my marketing and financial guy. I value his input immensely. He has given me some incredible advice which has really helped me with the entire book process. I am thankful for him!
  8. If you were given a teaching opportunity, would you accept it? I have taught women at my church in Bible studies. At this time, I feel I need to continue writing the Bible Study Trolley books. My Bible studies are also available at teacherspayteachers.com as well as Amazon.
  9. How long did it take me to write a book? My first book, “The Door,” I believe it took me three months.  I have published nine Bible Study Trolley books in a little over a year.
  10. Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it? I am a full time wife as well as a stepmom and love it! I love writing also!
  11. Can you tell us about your current projects? I am trying to focus on one Bible study at a time. I have done more than that but it is easier to write one at a time.  I am hoping to do a “Jesus” Bible Study Trolley, which is already being drafted.  I should have done it first.

If you have the time, I hope you will check out the Trolley Bible Studies (Genesis Series 1-5, Jonah, Esther, Ruth and James),   “The Door” as well. As I mentioned earlier, these Bible Studies are a fun and simple way to study the Bible. If I can be of help, I can be reached at lisaumagro@yahoo.com. Thanks!