Amy Hammond Hagberg
By Donald James Parker
TCP: How did you get involved in writing How Do You Know He's Real?
Amy: One day in the summer of 2003 my 16-year-old daughter, Kaia , was talking with a boy who lives across the lake from us. He comes from a blended family – his father had been killed in a car accident several years before. Justin is a troubled kid – Kaia was trying to coax him into coming to youth group with her one Sunday evening. His response was surprising. Justin looked her square in the face and said, “But How Do You Know He’s Real?”
Kaia came home a short time later seeking advice on how to answer that universal question. How DO we know God is real and not just a fairy tale? I thought to myself – what would convince Justin that Jesus is worth a try? He didn’t attend church, and he thought Christians were nerdy, do-gooders and didn’t want anything to do with religion. Well, looking at American culture and how we worship celebrity, I thought maybe if someone he looked up to and admired talked about Jesus we had a shot. I took Justin’s challenge and embarked on a journey to prove that Christ is real.
God pestered me for months; I could almost hear Him saying, “Write this book and tell people about me.” So in November I answered the call and decided to do something to answer the question. I started emailing, sending letters, and making phone calls to movie stars, professional and Olympic athletes, and musicians – people my research told me were fired-up Christians. It was a pretty gutsy move … what made me think that any of these people would give me the time of day?
You know what? They did. More than 120 celebrities have shared their very personal spiritual journeys pertaining to: miracles, relationships, healing, success, sex, addiction, death, forgiveness, salvation, joy, love and so much more.
TCP: Had you written any books before that? If so tell us about it/them?
Amy: Although I graduated from college with a degree in communications emphasizing writing and speech, I’d been in the business world as a sales executive ever since graduation. I’d never had anything published when I started, so I really had no writing credentials. By the time the book was published, however, I’d written for numerous magazines.
TCP How did you pick which people would be featured in your book?
Amy: It wasn’t really me who decided who to feature. When I first agreed to do the project, I asked God to find the right participants, the right publisher and the people who needed to read it. It was completely in His control. It was definitely slow going at first—I didn’t get many responses and most of the ones I did get were rejections. Still I felt called to do it. I did a great deal of research. I didn’t want to feature people who simply believed in God. I wanted born-again believers who were willing to bare their souls to me and share their faith with my readers. There were several people interested in being part of the project that just didn’t fit the bill and I opted against including them. I read a number of Christian magazines, so that was a good starting point. Once the project got going, the networking paid off and I was able to connect with celebrities more easily.
TCP: I believe you have a sequel which continues with new contributors? If so can you share a few names that people would recognize?
Amy: There are actually two books in the series that have been published with another planned for sometime in the future. The first book, How Do You Know He’s Real: 34 Celebrity Reflections on True Life Experiences with God features such notables as Kirk Cameron (actor), Charlie Daniels (recording artist), Gloria Gaynor (recording artist), John Schneider (actor), Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (NFL player), Billy Ray Cyrus (recording artist), Gary Burghoff (actor), Ricky Skaggs (recording artist), David Carr (NFL player) and Jonny Lang (recording artist).
How Do You Know He's Real? God Unplugged, the second book in the He's Real series, shares the profound real life journeys and dramatic encounters with the living God by younger celebrities from the worlds of sports and music. The book addresses issues that young people deal with, like insecurity, anger, peer pressure, addiction and self-esteem. It includes the testimonies of 44 celebrities including: Barlow Girl (recording artist), Superchick (recording artist), Pillar (recording artist), Kutless (recording artist), Dwight Howard (NBA player), Jeremy Affeldt (MLB pitcher), Skillet (recording artist), Alana Beard (WNBA player), George Huff (American Idol finalist), Christian Hosoi (skateboarder), Thousand Foot Krutch (recording artist), Aaron Baddeley (PGA golfer), CJ Hobgood (world champion surfer), Josh Davis (Olympic Gold Medal – swimming).
The complete list of participants in both books is available on my website, www.amyhagberg.com.
TCP: Do you keep in touch with any of the people who contributed to your book?
Amy: I’ve gotten to be friends with many of them and stay in touch on a regular basis. I’m in the middle of writing projects with a few of them as well. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting several of them face-to-face in my travels and have been so blessed by their friendships.
TCP: How has your walk with God changed as a result of your publication?
Amy: Ha – if I thought God was real before, I am unalterably convinced of it now! He took a no-name, unpublished, wanna-be writer and opened the doors to interview some very famous people. I now write for magazines all over the world, have written four books, and speak to women’s and youth groups nationwide on a variety of topics. My faith has grown exponentially … I live for God in a way I’d only dreamed of before.
TCP: What's else is on the horizon for Amy's authoring skills?
Amy: I have a new book coming out with a major publisher in September 2008 called 100 Answers to 100 Questions Before You Say “I Do” which contains some excellent advice for people considering marriage from a woman who has been married more than 23 years…ME! My literary agent is busy pitching three other books to publishers right now and I’ve got a couple of other books percolating in my brain. It’s hard to keep up with it all!
TCP: You are also a blog radio show host. How did that come about?
Amy: You know, I didn’t know anything about Blog Talk Radio until someone suggested I start a show. What an amazing medium! So I took the plunge and started my show called God Unplugged. God Unplugged showcases the profound real-life journeys and dramatic encounters with God by celebrated athletes, authors, recording artists, actors. Being famous doesn’t make their lives perfect; these celebrities still struggle with the same issues that most people deal with… insecurity, anger, peer pressure, addiction and self-esteem. We also present the stories of Christians from all walks of life…you don't have to be a celebrity to share how God has impacted your life. These life-changing testimonies inspire and challenge listeners and present the Gospel in a culturally relevant way. I’ve interviewed several of the people featured in my books on the show. You can hear conversations with world champion water skier Kristi Overton Johnson, Lead vocalist from Seventh Day Slumber, Joseph Rojas, Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, Brandon Slay, recording artist and author, Tammy Trent, legendary recording artist, Bryan Duncan, Chrissy Conway from the group Zoe Girl and many more.
The show airs live every Thursday at 12 noon Central time (1 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Mountain, 10 a.m. Pacific). Callers are encouraged to join the conversation and ask questions live or listen online at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/godunplugged or by visiting my website, www.amyhagberg.com. There is a player for the show on my homepage. During the live show listeners can also participate in the chat room and ask questions that way. The beauty of Blog Talk Radio is that you don’t have to listen to the show live –you can listen any time 24 x7 by visiting the archives. Take a listen, there are some great shows there!
TCP: And now it is your chance. How do you know He is real?
Amy: I give my complete testimony in the first chapter of my first book, but I’d love to give you a short version.
My husband Craig and I have been married for over 23 years – very happily for about half of that time. Like many, the beginning was rocky – especially the first few years. As the years went by, we focused more and more time on our growing family and careers, and less and less on one another. We were certainly not focused on God.
So in His infinite wisdom, God found a way to change that. Craig went through a serious bout of clinical depression following a disappointing business venture. He medicated himself with drugs and alcohol to ease the pain, only to become more and more depressed. Many of my friends and coworkers encouraged me to leave him. Gradually the prescribed anti-depressant worsened his symptoms. He spent much of they daytime sleeping, and it was hard to hold the family together.
One day it all came to a head. We had an English nanny living with us to assist in the care of our two children. In Minnesota , the winters are harsh – so bitter cold that special engine block heaters are installed to make sure cars will start if exposed to the elements. One such winter day, Christine was unable to get her car started – it sat frozen and lifeless in the driveway. The battery needed to be jumpstarted, and Craig was the only one who knew how to do it. But he was in bed sleeping…. again. At my wits end, I screamed at him to get out of bed and do something! He got out of bed, went outside to start the car, and promptly disappeared.
Several hours later there was still no sign of him and I started to panic. I regretted the harsh way I’d spoken to him and was terribly worried. He finally walked through the front door… he’d obviously been crying. As I learned what he’d been through that day, I understood his anguish. When Craig had left our home, he’d headed down to a nearby river. He’d sat in his SUV along the riverbank sobbing and contemplating the unthinkable – suicide. He figured we were better off without him and a determined plunge into the frigid water would end his pain quickly and decisively. Sitting there he said a prayer asking God to send an angel – a visible sign that He is real – before he made the final, irreversible decision to end his own life.
As soon as he opened his eyes, he saw a strange sight. A beat-up late model, Chevy Impala was lumbering straight for him towing a trailer and snowmobile. It was amazing to see this awkward vehicle fishtailing through the impassable snow of the boat landing when Craig’s Jeep had barely made it through. The car pulled up alongside him, and behind the wheel Craig saw a scruffy man who looked like he was down on his luck. The man rolled down his window and said, “Are you alright?” Craig wiped away his tears and said, “Yeah, I’m okay.” Without another word, the stranger turned around and drove away. That was it. A coincidence? I don’t think so. I believe God answered Craig’s plea and sent him an angel that day. That man saved Craig’s life along a frozen riverbank in rural Minnesota … there is no reasonable explanation how that man found Craig hidden off the beaten path like that.
That experience was life-changing for both of Craig and me. The day he gave control to God, both his addictions and depression were gone. I witnessed a miracle happen right before my own eyes. Not long after that I gave my life to the Lord as well and we’ve been on an amazing adventure ever since. Oh yes, I know Jesus Christ is Real!
About Amy Hagberg: Visit her website at http://www.amyhagberg.com/ to find out more about this special lady.
About the interviewer: Donald James Parker is a novelist and computer programmer who resides in Puyallup, Washington. Check out his website at www.donaldjamesparker.com?tcp