Welcome to the Blog Malinda! Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m a full-time children’s ministry director at a local church in Southern California, though I also have a background in theater, film, and radio. I love living by the beach with my dog, Yoshi. When I’m not working or writing at a local coffee shop, I love being outdoors enjoying God’s creation, attempting artistic creativity, or reading.

Describe your story briefly because it’s an unusual Bible study:

“The Other Three Sixteens” starts with the familiar gospel of John 3:16, then explores the third chapter and sixteenth verses in each book of the Bible. It is a quest to discover God’s love, and with every detail we learn, we begin to understand how passionately, immensely, and tangibly God cares for us. After diving deep into these scriptures, our relationship with the Lord is changed, as well as how we love others like Christ loves us.

What was the inspiration behind writing this book?

Through the years in children’s ministry, we spend a lot of time on John 3:16. We say it together, we memorize it, we even sing it. After all this attention given to that verse, any other time I’d see the number combination of 3:16 in the Bible, it would jump off the page and grab my attention.  This made me curious about what the other 3:16s had to say, and I began a personal study journey. What I discovered was so good that I could not possibly keep it to myself. I had to share it!

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you find time in your day to write?

I’m incredibly thankful for my job in children’s ministry, as it is full of blessings. I am also grateful that my schedule has some flexibility, which allows for writing time. This sometimes means I do all my work first thing and write in the evenings, or other days I find myself planning lessons at 11pm so I could write at the coffee shop during business hours. It takes quite a long time to complete a book this way, but God’s timing always seems to work.

Do you reward yourself when a book is finished? If so, what is your favorite treat?

Having a finished book is its own reward! Finally being able to share with others is exciting. But, it would be foolish to turn down the opportunity to celebrate, so I might choose one of my favorites- dinner with friends at a local Italian, Mexican, or seafood restaurant.

Were there any surprises that came up as you wrote this study?

Since everything in God’s Word points back to His love, I had a theory when I began that the 3:16s would come together. However, as I began in Genesis and saw a very dark time in Adam and Eve’s life, I began to have doubts in the project. Once I spent time in prayer and looking at the context of each 3:16, God surprised me by revealing more aspects of His love- even and especially in dark times. The stories of Nehemiah, Job, the prophets, and Paul’s letters all demonstrated how the Lord is with us in OUR darkest moments. He is always by our side and loving us with everlasting compassion.

What are your three favorite books?

The answer to this question is subject to change! But my current three favorites are “Hunting Hope” by Nika Maples, “None Like Him” by Jen Wilkin, and “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. Oh, and “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard. I know that’s four, but they are all worth a read!

What book or author has inspired you the most?

That would honestly be the Bible. No matter how many times I read it, I learn something new. It’s alive and active, not a dusty ancient text. I know the author personally and stand in awe as I marvel at His unending good works. The words on the page are real, true, and applicable to every detail of our lives. We can have conversations with God about them and the Holy Spirit helps us understand. It’s a book like no other.

Do you experience writer’s block? What do you do to get through it?

Oh, writer’s block is so frustrating! I am a very undisciplined writer, and go through seasons where I write a lot and seasons where nothing is created at all. So I often tend to wait out writer’s block until inspiration blooms again. I also have a really cool tool kit called “The Observation Deck” that is a deck of cards, each with a different writing exercise designed to defeat writer’s block. It helps if I write somewhere that encourages creativity, which is often the coffee shop or local corner store, or a park by the ocean. Finally, it’s freeing to know that my first draft can be horrible. The editing phase is where it will be improved and polished. First drafts are full of freedom to get as many thoughts from my mind to the page.

I just love your book cover. Here it is with a short excerpt:

“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.” – Exodus 3:16

Here’s one remarkable piece of Exodus 3:16: “I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.” The people were suffering, and just when they thought they had reached their limit, the Egyptians increased their oppression. Yet, none of this goes unnoticed by God. Not only does He see, but He is closely watching. He was paying careful attention to the Israelites, purposely keeping His eyes on them. He was with his people; He did not abandon them. The next question is, then, why did He allow the pain to last for so long? This is a huge inquiry that many have struggled with, and have, in fact, struggled with for all time.

The account of Job is likely the oldest book in the Bible, and it centers around the question of why suffering exists. When Job called out with pleas of “why?”, God answered him… but not necessarily with “because”. Instead, He provided a glimpse of His glory and an assurance that His plans are perfect. Since then, we have learned that God’s big picture and his attention to detail and timing are intentional—and ultimately in our best interest. We cling to scriptures that promise future hope and things working for our benefit when we can’t understand why things seem wrong, while trusting that God is good. The Israelites also cried out to their God. As their oppression went on, God watched with compassionate eyes. They would remain in bondage no longer; a rescue was coming.

For the Israelites, their darkness came in the form of slavery. Over the centuries, all of God’s people have experienced some form of darkness. It comes in all varieties, big and small, external and internal. We face pain, bleak circumstances, injustice, catastrophes, illness, persecution…. These seasons are dark, and they can be long. We may feel unloved and forgotten by our Heavenly Father, but, dear child of God, He is watching. And don’t for one second think that He is a passive bystander. His never faltering presence is a light in the dark. He is in the process of making something good and beautiful out of deepest despair. God sees you. He cares about what is happening to you. He loves you. A rescue is coming.

We could stop here at our 3:16 and cling to the richness found in these short phrases. But our eyes can’t help to continue down the page to find out what will happen next and how God’s people will be saved. We know that they will most certainly be rescued. There was a covenant to be fulfilled. God’s people would be given more than just relief from slavery; they would be given an entire blessed land of promise. They would be redeemed…. And so will we.

Thank you for sharing your Bible study with us today, Malinda. Where can readers find you online?

Let’s connect on facebook.com/malthewriter, on Instagram @malthewriter , or on Twitter @malthestar . There’s also more info at malindafugate.com !