Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is a true southern treasure. A dixie humorist from the bustling metropolis of Providence, Lousiana, she’s delighted audiences of all types with works such as Suck in Your Stomach and Put Some Color On and Sue Ellen’s Girl Ain’t Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy!.
Shellie’s most recent work is Heart Wide Open, a Christian work that urges us to drop whatever we’re doing and run to Jesus. We’re lucky that she was gracious enough to have an internet sit down with us down by the electric bayou to ask a few questions.
You can find the review for Heart Wide Open here.
It’s obvious that your faith is the major inspiration for Heart Wide Open, but stepping out to write a book on religion takes a lot of confidence. Where did you find this confidence?
That’s an interesting question, Don.I’m not sure that I needed confidence to write on my faith, but I sure did lack confidence in thinking I could do a fair job with it! Prayer pulled me through– and believing girlfriends who believed in me. I can’t say enough about the support of my friends!
How has the response been to Heart Wide Open? How has it been received in the evangelical community?
The evangelical community has been very appreciative of Heart Wide Open, to the degree that they have found it. My name isn’t exactly known in the CBA audience, meaning that people aren’t looking for what I’m saying. They’re kind of finding my debut faith debut by “accident” and word of mouth.
Heart Wide Open takes on questions of faith and what it is to be “a good christian”. Was there ever a time when you thought, “You know, I don’t know if I’m qualified to write this”?
Only every time I opened my laptop. Seriously, one of my goals was to challenge us all to aim to be better lovers of this sweet Jesus instead of better believers. I strongly believe that trying to be a good Christian without abiding in Christ is what discourages so many.
You have a very simple message in advocating, “Running to Jesus”. This mirrors how simple Christ’s message was, especially in loving the lord and loving our brother. Considering how simple this message is, why do you think it is that modern day Christianity seems so complicated?
I think modern day Christianity is so complicated because we haven’t wanted to make time for a holy pursuit of Jesus, or we haven’t made the effort to seek Him for ourselves. We’ve ceded our personal responsibilities to the leadership of our churches and in doing so, I think we ceded our passion as well.
Why don’t you consider Heart Wide Open a “spiritual self improvement course”?
I don’t want anyone to consider Heart Wide Open a “spiritual self improvement course” because it smacks of measuring the progress of our faith and I spent far too much of my journey in that trap. If we simply seek Jesus, we progress in the faith, but if we fall victim to excessive introspection we will always become mired in our own muck.
Were you worried when you started Heart Wide Open that your view of Christianity might come under scrutiny, perhaps even attacked?
Honestly, I don’t think I was ever worried about my Christianity coming under attack. I was so delighted to be able to write on the subject that my greater concern was if I could be coherent enough to get my message across.
You’re known for your sense of humor. What do you think Jesus finds funny? I mean, when he was a human walking the Earth, what do you think cracked him up?
Oh, I love this question! I think some of the things that make us laugh must have made Jesus laugh, too! Surely there were daily miscommunications that amused Him. And think about the looks on the disciples faces when the bread multiplied and the waves stood still! I’m thinking He got a kick out of that!
In Heart Wide Open you speak about “bible beatings”, and quote John 5:39-40 to emphasize Jesus’s view, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
This has always been an interesting scripture because you can sense frustration on the part of Jesus. The Pharisees are buried in a book when God is standing before them. How do you think a current day Jesus would fare with theologians and ministers? In other words, how do you think we would have fared if we had stood in the shoes of the Pharisees?
Oh, ouch and ouch! I was tempted to pass on this question, Don. I know that there have been many times when I haven’t seen the forest of God’s love for the trees of His commands! I do hope that I would’ve been able to see the walking Word of God living among us, but frankly, I’m grateful that I wasn’t put to that test.
What projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to?
Thank you for asking! I’m currently working on the followup to Heart Wide Open. It’s tentatively entitled Sanctuary Living.
Do you think that modern medicine will every come up with a cure for chicken lips? Will we have to wait for divine intervention??
Now, that is funny! I love wrapping up this wonderful visit to your place with humor. As of this writing, modern medicine has failed big time, yes? Who hasn’t seen the newly “big-lipped” folks around, looking like they were stung my wasps? I’m thinking I’ll wait on the divine intervention, myself!
Thank you for warmly receiving the labor of love I call Heart Wide Open, Don. I enjoyed our visit.
Heart Wide Open is available in bookstores and on Amazon. You can visit Shellie’s website to learn more about her radio show and appearances at belleofallthingssouthern.com/