Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Deepest Waters or...what?

"What's in a name?" Juliet asks Romeo. She then answers: "A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet" (slight paraphrase). A fancy way of saying something is what it is, no matter what you call it.

Parents usually spend a great deal of time picking out a name for their child, as well they should. It's something that will stay with them their entire lives. I know a friend who chose "Danger" as his son's middle name. He said he always wanted to say, "Danger is my middle name."

All right then.

My sister Anne named one of her sons "Samuel." Not Sam or Sammy, she told us. We're going to call him Samuel. And she insisted we keep calling him Samuel all his life. Because that was his name. Now, I don't know how long that lasted, but we've all been calling him Sam for as long as I can remember (and so has she).

Even though my second book, The Homecoming, won't be out until June, my publisher recently sent me a lengthy questionaire all about what I want to call my third book and why. That book won't be out until the spring of 2011. Things move very slowly in publishing.

I'm going to fill out this questionnaire all the way through and then turn it in, but it didn't help with my first or my second books. Both of those titles got changed in the process. I really like the name change for book one, The Unfinished Gift. Actually much better than what I'd come up with. But I'm still warming up to the name we picked for the sequel, The Homecoming. It really fits, don't get me wrong. It even connects on several different levels.

But I still like the name I came up with better. I called it, "Meet Me At The Eagle." When you read it, you'll understand why. It also fits and connects on several different levels. Problem is, no one except people who live in Philadelphia would have any idea what this means. I'm told when you become a major bestselling author you can pretty much call a book whatever you please.

We'll see.

I've titled my 3rd book, "The Deepest Waters," and I'm really hoping it sticks. The story takes place in 1857. It's about a young couple separated during a fierce hurricane by a shipwreck on their honeymoon. The title really fits and connects on several different levels. :) I'm going to fill out this questionnaire here and make my best case. Will I succeed with Book Number 3? Will it wind up being called "The Deepest Waters"?

We'll see.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bestseller on Kindle and Crossings Book Club

Guess the "brief shining moment" I mentioned back on Monday has turned into a few good days. I just checked Amazon again and The Unfinished Gift was back at #4 on Kindle's Christmas bestsellers list. Not sure what accounts for this "Kindle surge," but it actually surpassed the hardcover edition, showing up at #14 on the Christmas bestsellers list for all books: hardcover, paper & Ebooks (the hardcover version was back at #30).

The connection between my book and Richard Paul Evans' novel, The Christmas List, got a little boost too. My book moved up as the 3rd book other customers also bought after buying his (#1, #2 and #4 are other books by him).

One last piece of encouraging news (for an author, these are like wonderful little Christmas presents I get to open early). Some of you may recall a post a few months ago, about my novel being picked up by Crossings, the largest Christian book club in the country. I just found out my book is #14 on their Christian fiction bestseller list.

Again...thanks to any and all of you who have bought copies of the book (a special "hats off" to any Kindle buyers).

Merry Christmas to you all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Unfinished Gift # 4 on Kindle!

I know this isn't the New York Times bestseller list, but The Unfinished Gift reached a pretty high place for a brief shining moment this week. A few days ago it was #4 on Amazon's Kindle sales ranking for Christmas books.

It was quite a sight to see it climb up the ranking this way. When I saw it, I clicked on the list to see who else was there and there was my book at #4. Ranking at #1 was Glenn Beck's book, then Mike Huckabee's book, then William Bennett's Christmas book (3 major conservatives on TV all the time). But there was my novel right behind their's at #4.

As of this writing, it's at #6. Two of Melody Carlson's Christmas novels have pulled in front. But this is good news for my publisher also. Both of these novels are also published by Revell.

The hardcover edition of The Unfinished Gift is also doing well, but has a lot more competition since only a small percentage of published books are also available on Kindle. Right now it's at #19 for Christmas books. It's been as high as #13 but seems to bump back and forth between #15-30.

One very encouraging development has been the connection between my book and bestselling author Richard Paul Evan's Christmas book, The Christmas List. My editors at Revell feel my writing and storytelling style resemble his. He has a huge readership. His first novel, The Christmas Box, has sold over 8 million copies and, since then, he's had 12 consecutive New York Times bestsellers. The hope would be that some of his readers would discover my books and that, of course, would be a very good thing.

There's some evidence this may be happening, at least on Amazon. If you click on his book and scroll down to "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought," my book is the 4th book over in his list.

I have no idea what all this means in terms of overall book sales, but I'm thanking God for seeing this kind of progress in such a short time. It's far more than I expected. As I thank God, I also want to thank all of you who've bought a copy (and so many who've emailed me saying they're buying extra copies as gifts for friends and loves ones).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Unfinished Gift recommended by Charisma

My publisher sent me an email today with some exciting news. Charisma magazine selected The Unfinished Gift as one of 3 Christmas fiction books they recommended in their December Christmas issue. Charisma is a large evangelical publication that primarily reaches charismatic and pentecostal churches. It has over a half-million readers.

Beside a picture of the book's cover, here's what they said:

"The simplest gifts mean the most. Ian and Patrick Collins are grandfather and grandson struggling to cope with loss. Young Patrick wants only three things for Christmas: the Army to find his dad; to leave his granddad's house; the wooden soldier in Ian's attic. A boy's prayers, some letters and an unfinished carved soldier help bring forgiveness and reconciliation to a family desperately in need of both."

What a great surprise (if you get the magazine, it's on page 49).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Seeing "Better Days" as Christmas Gifts from God

It's the most wonderful time of the year, right? That message rings out every Christmas season from a number of directions. There's a sense we should pretty much be smiling from Thanksgiving all the way through Christmas day.

But in reality, Christmas isn't the same experience for everyone, not even the same experience for the same person year to year. Some may be having their best Christmas ever right now, while others...not so much. To be frank, my wife and I are having a weird year. Not a bad year, just different. In some ways, not as good as in years past. Some things are the same. The decorations and Christmas tree, the Christmas music, the egg nog. Cindi and I watching our favorite Christmas movies together.

But there was a time when both our families lived in the same town, back when our kids were little. Christmas back then was almost maddening (in a good way). Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day had to be carefully managed to keep all the calendar demands from crashing. And besides the extended family traditions, we had our little ones to share it with.

But now...most of my wife's family lives in Texas. Many on my side of the family either live out of state or out of town. Even our daughter lives in Texas. For the first time she wasn't here to decorate our tree and she won't be able to make it home for Christmas either. My son is engaged so we're splitting our time with him and his fiance's family.

On the upside, I still have Cindi, and we are the best of friends. There's been a ton of exciting things going on with my books. But still I find myself tempted to grumble, even to feel a little depressed as I think back to how full our holiday moments used to be. Recently, I spent some time looking at old pictures of Christmases past. Cindi and I started chatting about some of the wonderful things we remembered, stirred by the pictures.

In a matter of moments, I was happy. It lasted a good long while. But then I found myself remembering the present situation and started thinking about how it's not the same anymore (will it ever be again, etc.), and the sadness began to return. But before I slipped too far, I thought of this verse: "Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits" (Psalm 103:2).

I thought of Phil. 4:8 where Paul, stuck in a Roman prison (way worse than my lot) says this: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Paul is not depressed, the whole letter to the Philippians carries a tone of pronounced joy. And it dawned on me...that these past Christmases, and all the wonderful memories that go with them, may be in the past but they really did happen. God gave us those moments to cherish.

Like Christmas presents from Him.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with thinking back and deriving all sorts of joy and blessing as we recount His benefits from Christmases past. It's actually something God encourages us to do. It's more than the "power of positive thinking." It's thinking about things God has really done, moments in time God has given us that really deserve more than just a passing glance.

What I found in my heart as I yielded to this new way of thinking was mostly gratitude for all the times we've had. And it wasn't hard for me to move from there to start praying about the present. I want to begin looking forward to whatever new things God has for us in these new and different days ahead.

And as often as I please, I'm going to start taking out God's Christmas gifts from the past, spend some time thinking about them, and let the joy of the Lord stir in my heart once again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Blog Tour Ends

As the weekend wrapped up, the Christmas Blog Tour came to an end. Earlier last week, I was able to keep up, even posting a sampling of blog sites each day. But as the week ended, I got a little swamped. There were 77 bloggers who featured The Unfinished Gift on their blogs throughout the United States and Canada. Revell told me it was their most successful blog tour so far.

Some did interviews, most reviewed the book and posted excerpts of the early chapters, some even previewed the sequel. I tried to visit as many as I could. It was a humbling experience. So many positive responses, far stronger than I anticipated.

Here are a few of the more profound remarks:
  • "Powerful. Amazing. Fantastic. That's how I would describe this book!" - Buukluvr81
  • "I'm not in the habit of giving books 'stars' on my blog, but if I did, and 5 stars was the highest, then 5 stars it would get." - Thoughts of a Sojourner
  • "Wonderful, wonderful read...just make sure you have a box of tissues close while reading this inspiring novel! - Frugal Plus
  • "It is beautifully written, woven together with all the colors of human emotion. I cannot wait until the sequel comes out!" - Jocelyn at Faith Deployed
  • "This is a book to read yourself, and then buy copies for all your friends and family, a book that will go on your keeper shelf to read next year. And the year following. And the year following that." - Laura at Lighthouse Academy
I wish I could post a little piece from them all. My heartfelt thanks to all who participated and for Donna Hausler at Revell for all her hard work putting this together.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Wintry Word of Encouragement

A friend in Orlando, Virginia Knowles, knowing my love of the writings of Charles Spurgeon, emailed me this very timely and encouraging quote. I had to share it.

“Thou hast made summer and winter.” ~ Psalm 74:17

"My soul begin this wintry month with our God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind us that He keeps His covenant with day and night, and tend to assure us that He will also keep that glorious covenant which He has made with us in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.

"Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon you just now it will be very painful: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord
makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scatters the hard frost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casts forth His ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore we cannot murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a stop to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

“How we prize the fireplace just now! How pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to Him, and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises, and go forth to labors which befit the season, for it would be sad to be as the sluggard who will not plow by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.”

~ Charles H. Spurgeon

Thank you, Virginia. BTW, she writes a wonderful email newsletter to hundreds of families across the country, filled with insights, helpful tools, humor...even great ways to cut costs and save money. Check out her blog by clicking here.

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blog Tour Sites for Tues & Wed

For those who'd like to see some more of the bloggers writing about The Unfinished Gift, here's a few more (and it really is just a random sampling...there have been 24 in just the first few days):

Edgy Inspirational Author's Blog - Click here.

A Peek at My Bookshelf Blog - Click here.

A Mom After God's Heart Blog - Click here.

Faith Deployed Blog - Click here.

Word Vessel Blog - Click here.

Cara's Musings Blog - Click here.

There are so many others besides these. I'm really grateful for all this effort others are doing to get the word out about the book. Hard to fathom sometimes. I'll list a few more as the week unfolds.

If you like to read Christian fiction, you might want to bookmark some of these blogs or become a "follower." Most of them review books on a regular basis.

Monday, November 30, 2009

More Blog Tour Sites

More bloggers participating in the Christmas Blog Tour went "live" today, posting reviews and interviews about The Unfinished Gift. I've been told different ones will be posting at different times throughout the week.

Thought I'd list of some of them, in case anyone is curious about what others are saying. It has been extremely satisfying and, at times humbling, for me to read how the book is affecting people.

Click here to read Buuklvr81's blog (you'll have to scroll down a bit).

Click here
to read Booking Mama's blog.

Click here for Thoughts of a Sojourner's blog.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Blog Tour Begins

A month ago, I posted about an upcoming blog tour for the book. Well, it begins today and runs all this week. I don't know all of the sites participating (over 100 were invited), but a number of them have contacted me over the last 2 weeks for interviews and such. As I become aware of them I'll post them here, in case anyone wants to look them over.

The first one is already up, called "My Scrappy Life" by Kaylea Hutson. Kaylea wrote an excellent interview, then a review of the book, and even a preview of The Homecoming (including the cover).

Click here to check it out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Cover for New Book

My 2nd novel, The Homecoming, is due out June 1st. In almost every bit of feedback I've received for The Unfinished Gift, people end up saying, "Can't wait for the sequel!" That could be folks just being polite, but I'm hoping it's more than that.

Well, plans for The Homecoming just got a little more solid this week. My publisher, Revell, sent me the final artwork for the cover. Click on the pic to see it better. I really like it. It borrows enough from the first book to tie them together but has brand new colors and graphics.

Just as the graphics for The Unfinished Gift hinted at the story inside, they've done the same with this cover. The antique watch and old train ticket point to a significant part of the story, which takes place on a train transporting a USO War Bond tour in 1944. 'Nuff said, for now.

The Homecoming is actually already available for pre-order on Amazon.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New 3-Book Deal!

Two years ago, we were in Texas visiting family around Thanksgiving when my agent called me saying my first book was sold. It was such an exciting moment, to know I would actually be published. Well, we are now in Texas again, visiting family around Thanksgiving, and on Friday I received another call from my agent. This time saying, Revell is offering me a contract to write 3 more books for them!

Thank you Lord for such a wonderful blessing, to be allowed to keep doing something I love to do and to actually be paid to do it.

This contract actually brings the count to 5 books. In between The Unfinished Gift and this new contract, Revell bought my 2nd book, due out this June, called The Homecoming. With this new contract, I'll be writing for them through the spring of 2012.

Here's how the contract looks. They are buying my 3rd book, already finished, called The Deepest Waters. And buying my 4th book, another Christmas novel tentively titled The Book Nook (only 20% complete). And buying a 5th stand-alone novel I haven't even started (we haven't even talked about a possible storyline yet).

It's very humbling to consider the confidence they have to make such an offer. Only God could have made such a thing possible. My confidence is that He will continue to help me in the future as He has helped me in the past, as He is helping me even now.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Idiot's Joy - A Reflection

As I was, yet again, wrestling with a certain anxiety in my life (a brand new one), I pondered the question: Why is it so easy for me to worry? I have now over 35 years of history with God, where I’ve gotten into one kind of trouble after another, only to find He has faithfully delivered me out of them all. This is what the Word says He will do, and it is what He has done so many times in my life. Yet a new uncertainty presents itself, a new dilemma with no quick solution, and I slip into the well-worn rut I’ve slipped into, lo these many years, and worry once more.

In this latest round, I found myself reading Psalm 40 in my quiet time and paused as I read verses 4-5:

“Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

I realized my happiest times are not really when my circumstances are all to my liking, but when I am trusting in God, regardless of my circumstances. There is one level of joy when things are going my way (and I do enjoy these rare moments), but it’s an even greater level of joy to have joy when you have no idea what’s going on…and you don’t care in the least, because you know you are loved and cared for by God. To be free of worry and care in those moments―because you have made the Lord your trust and because you know He is worthy of that trust―this is a far greater joy.

Why? Because joy that comes from faith and that certain, quiet trust in the Lord cannot be moved. It flows from faith not from sight. It transcends circumstantial joy, flies far above it. And because it does, shifting circumstances have no power to bring it down. Now to the unbelieving eye, it appears to be the joy of an imbecile. Only an idiot laughs when his life is in shambles. But even if this were so, should we not envy the idiot who could know such joy? Would not such joy be preferable to the misery of dwelling on the harsh realities of life?

But as it turns out, this is not the idiot’s joy. There is a God in heaven. He beckons us to deliberately look away from our troubles and contemplate His perspective. David sees this and says what we need to consider. He says the God of Heaven has multiplied His thoughts toward us. He says, “I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

Charles Spurgeon, my favorite theologian living or dead, said this about this text: “Could we see all the mercies of God to us and His wonderful work wrought for us individually, they would be countless as the sands, and all these countless mercies represent countless thoughts in the mind and heart of God to each one of his people.”

Is this not the rut for me? The reason I slip so easily into worry? I imagine in my mind that God has forgotten about me. That He is not thinking about me now. How could He be? If He were, this situation would never have happened. Once these thoughts settle in, it follows that I must fix the situation somehow; it’s all up to me. My mind, independent of faith and trust, kicks into gear. Worry flows from fear, the fear that I am alone. Since I am alone, I must fend for myself.

Then God’s Spirit gently interrupts my drift with the astounding truth of God’s Word. God has not stopped thinking about me for a moment. Not a single moment. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust…who does not go astray after a lie! What lie? That I am alone, that God has forgotten about me. And what is the truth? His thoughts toward me (about me) are more numerous than can be counted. He has, perhaps, dozens of thoughts regarding the very situation that perplexes me now. A plan, God’s plan, is underway, even as we speak. And the end result of this plan, when fully unfolded, will be to the praise of His glory. And I will approve of it, every single part. The knowledge of these things gives me all the reason I need to let go of my worries now, and let the joy of the Lord renew my strength.

Is this the idiot’s joy? Then so be it. But I have 35 years of stories just like this. And they all tell me that God is behind it all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Remarkable Week

This has been quite a week.

I spent Tuesday interacting with the writers and readers on the Seekersville Blog. So far, my most rewarding interview experience. Chatting with about 50 people off and on all day. On Wednesday, we taped the radio interview for "Family Today with Beth Warden." Beth said she'll be replaying it over 5 days in early December. Her show reaches 4 million listeners in Canada. A really nice lady.

On Thursday and Friday I began responding to interview emails from a number of bloggers participating in Revell's Christmas Blog Tour. They'll be promoting The Unfinished Gift the week after Thanksgiving. Some will post interviews, some will review the book and some will reprint the first chapter. I have no idea what to expect, but I'm humbled by all this activity done on my behalf.

Saturday was my final booksigning (for now). We were at the Family Christian Stores in my hometown of Daytona Beach. Janelle, the store manager, was extremely enthusiastic about the book and did a great job talking it up with her customers, in the days leading up to the signing. And it showed. I stayed busy signing books the entire time.

Near the end, I experienced a wonderful surprise.

I looked up to see 4 men, about my age, walk through the door. They stood in front of the table and smiled. I looked up to greet them and, shock of shocks, I couldn't believe my eyes. My four best pals from high school, standing right there. I hadn't seen two of them since my wedding day...33 years ago. One I had seen only once, 9 nears ago. They got together and decided to stop by and buy a book...and honor an old friend.

That's us together in the picture. Standing left to right: Wayne Sobien (attorney), David Dunlop (professional photographer), Vic Watson (attorney) and Dave Ferguson (attorney). That's me sitting dumbfounded in the chair. In high school we were all non-contributing zeroes, surf bums all. If you click on the pic it will get bigger (but a little blurry).

As a pastor and author, I get way more than my share of encouragement, but this was a kindness of a different kind. Words fail me (and that's hard to do). We exchanged numbers, because we're not even close to getting caught up. Turns out, we don't live all that far away from each other, so we're going to meet again. Hopefully real soon.

Like I said, a remarkable week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Come Join Me As I Visit the Seekers

This Tuesday, off and on throughout the day, I'll be visiting a very active writers blog called "Seekerville." The blog was created by a number of Christian fiction writers, who were all "seeking" to become published. Two years later, some have become published and some are still seeking.

But the blog has grown to include several hundred followers who visit regularly just to learn and laugh at the posts and comments provided. One of the Seekers is Julie Lessman, a fellow Revell author. Last September when Cindi and I were in Denver, many of the Seekers attended the same writer's conference and spent an evening out together downtown. Julie was kind enough to include us in their group and we had the best time.

Shortly after we got back, they emailed and asked me to schedule a day to visit their group and allow their folks to ask me questions. To get things started, they asked me to write a post about whatever God put on my heart. What I wrote has everything to do with this picture of a turtle on a fencepost. To find out what, you'll have to visit the Seekerville Blog, any time of the day this Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Big Radio Interview Coming...in Canada

I received an interesting email yesterday from a firm in Canada that handles publicity for Baker Publishing. It seems one of the top Christian radio outlets in Canada wants to interview me about The Unfinished Gift. Sounds very exciting.

The show is called "Today's Family With Beth Warden." Beth will call me next week and tape the interview. It will run in December (exact date is not set). Her radio show reaches 4 million listeners in places like Alberta, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottowa, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

I'm guessing you won't be able to hear the interview unless you live in Canada. I'll ask Beth if there's any way to pick it up on the internet and let you know the actual air date. Oh...I almost forgot...they plan to do a week-long promotion of the book before the show airs.

What an amazing opportunity for people to hear about the book (thank you, Lord).

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The Christmas season has officially arrived. When I was a kid, it began on Thanksgiving Day, the moment you saw Santa riding by on the last float at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. But that was the 20th century.

Now the holiday clock begins ticking, at least for me, when Starbucks starts serving Egg Nog latte's. Can there be a finer holiday drink than Egg Nog? I know not one. Before the egg nog latte, I had to wait much longer to indulge in this delightful beverage. Weeks, sometimes all the way till Christmas Day.

It's not like I could just stop by a convenience store and pick up a quart. How would that look? But now I'm just a respectable Starbucks customer, stopping by for a hot coffee drink. No one gives me a second look.

Now, some of you know I live in Florida. It can actually be warm enough for shorts and flip flops most days, even in November. But see, that's not really a problem for me. Just around the corner McD's will bring out their own holiday offering...the egg nog shake.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Unfinished Gift Goes on Tour

Just after Thanksgiving my novel is going on tour, all over the country...without me.

Just a few years ago, such a thing was unheard of. One more example of the internet changing the way people do business. It's a pretty cool thing, especially for writers. It's called a blog tour. Like a virtual booksigning tour, except I don't go anywhere, and I only sign a few books.

I heard about this a few months ago. Immediately saw the potential. A great way for a lot of people to hear about your book in a short period of time. Most writers have to put them together by themselves. Lots of hard work and lots of time. Lots of time I don't have.

Another reason I'm grateful to God for putting me with Revell. Revell is a division of Baker Publishing Group. Baker has created their own blog tour. They've done all the work to set it up, way better than I ever could have.

Here's what's going to happen. Revell has put a team of bloggers together, about 100 of them. They all love fiction. Some are authors, all are writers. They read books and write reviews for their "followers," people who read their blogs on a regular basis. Some bloggers have a few dozen followers, some have hundreds.

Very soon, Revell is going to send them a copy of my book and fellow Revell author, Melody Carlson's book, The Christmas Dog. They'll read our books, review them on their blog, usually with a graphic of the book's cover (1-click away from Amazon). To encourage their readers to read the whole thing, those who comment are entered into a contest to recieve a free signed copy of the book.

In a week's time, hundreds if not thousands of interested Christian fiction readers from all over the country will find out about The Unfinished Gift at the peak of the Holiday Season, right after Thanksgiving weekend (Nov 3oth through Dec 4th).

And all this will happen without me ever getting off of the couch. An amazing thing. Well...that's just a saying. I don't sit on the couch that much. Not all the time, anyway. No more than anyone else.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Literary Alter Ego

I've been reminded recently of a literary character from a book I read, shortly after coming to Christ. It's the main character from what is now considered a classic Christian work, written in 1955 by Hannah Hurnard. The book is called "Hinds Feet On High Places."

When I first read the book (decades ago), I could really relate to this character, although I didn't admit it...well, to anyone. Here I am (decades later), and I realize I can still relate to this character quite easily. If you've read a good number of my posts, what I'm about to confess won't come as a great surprise.

I wish I could say my alter ego was someone bold and courageous. That this character was full of faith and zeal, ready to do daring exploits for God. Actually, it would be nice if this character was even a guy.

But sadly, the character I speak of is a young girl in Hurnard's allegorical story named Much Afraid. You'll have to read the book to get the full effect of what I'm saying. But Much Afraid, as you might guess, is afraid of many things. It's a great story with a wonderful message and a great ending. But Much Afraid realizes her strength and courage doesn't come from within but from her relationship with the Shepherd.

Apart from Him, she is...Much Afraid. As am I.

Left to drift, my mind will often wander toward any number of what-if scenarios. Most are extensions of the present situation going badly. From this, fretting comes. My mind then creates plans, intended to be solutions, to each of the what-if scenarios. But these are mere illusions, intending to bring me peace, because now we have a plan. It's a good plan. It covers all the bases. Things are back under control.

For a little while, the illusion holds. But stuff happens. I didn't cover all the bases; it's not a good plan; I'm not in control.

The victory, I'm learning, is to realize I never have control. Whenever I think I'm in control, that's the illusion. Whether the situation is so overwhelming that it shakes me to the core, or just mildly confusing, it is equally out of my control.

Much Afraid eventually comes to realize where her hope and strength comes from. It is wrapped in a dependent relationship with the Shepherd. This weakness and uncertainty I feel is not an illusion; it is a doorway to grace, an opportunity to experience a genuine peace, deep down inside. And I don't even need to know what the plan is. I just need to know the One who leads me.

That He is a Good Shepherd. Good in nature, and good at leading me. I don't need to have answers for any of my what-if scenarios. The fretting is replaced by a peace that is better than the illusion of peace that comes from my own plans. It is a peace that surpasses understanding, superior in every way.

Because my Good Shepherd is also the Great I Am, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. The One who holds worlds and galaxies in place, who loves me with an everlasting love and gave Himself up for me. I am not set adrift in this life to wander as an orphan. Things are not just happening to me.

He holds me all the while in the very palm of his hand.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Email Gadget - Help me test it?

As I continue my slow crawl from the primordial ooze of internet ignorance...I've responded to some advice that suggested I put a gadget on my blog that would allow people to receive emails notifying them of any new posts I write (did that even make sense?).

I went to a site called Feedblitz, the one recommended as "super-easy". Apparently, I should have been directed to the one that is "ridiculously-super-easy," because I hardly understood a word of the super-easy instructions. But in the end, you might notice the gadget is there on my blog site just under my picture.

The question is...does it work? Did I do it right? I'm wondering if some of you would use it and let me know if my posts are sent to your email account. That's the general idea, to keep you from having to check back since I only post a few times a week (or less).

If this is successful, it will give me confidence to add a widget that will allow me to create an email list for a newsletter (this would be sent out even less often, every other month or so).

So...jump in if you dare (I promise...no salesman will call).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Sign...I'm Signing...I'm a Signer!

The title to this post will only make sense to fans of "What About Bob?" One of my favorite comedies, starring Bill Murray. He plays a rather pathetic soul whose afraid of everything. In one scene, we see him literally tied to a mast on a sailboat, and he shouts out the victory moment: "I Sail...I'm Sailing...I'm a Sailor!"

That's the sense of exhilaration I felt as we concluded my first book signing this afternoon at a real store (with real customers coming up to the table). I've done one at a writer's conference, and at my church, but today many of these were people I don't even know (did I mention...I sign...I'm a signer now).

No one even asked me where the restrooms were. Before it started, I made sure to find out just in case. One man did ask me where the cash register was, but everyone else that came to the table bought a book. And they wanted ME to sign it (I'm a signer now, I sign).

I've got three more scheduled over the next 4 weeks. But hey, I'm okay now. I sign.

On a more serious note...I want to thank all of those who also came out, who do know me and came out to support me. I'm especially humbled by those who did, who've already bought and read the book, but you came anyway. And many of you bought additional copies as gifts for others. But you know and I know...you could have bought those copies online much cheaper. But you know, and I know why you bought them today.

I am humbled by your kindness.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Two New Book Signings in FL

Firmed up this week, two more book signings. One in Daytona Beach, one in Orlando, both at Family Christian Stores. I've already scheduled two with Barnes & Noble stores. Both stores in both places are just down the street from each other.

The first is on Saturday, Oct 31st, 1-3pm, at the Family Christian Store in Altamonte Springs (a suburb of Orlando), on 436 at the Palm Springs Center (near Albertsons and the Florida Hospital).

The second is in Daytona at the Family Christian Store right across from the Speedway, on Saturday, Nov 14th, between 1-3pm.

If you're near either of these stores then, stop by and say hi. Even if you've already bought the book.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No Greater Place to Be

I decided it was time to draw attention to what really matters most to me. It's not my writing. It's not even my family or my wonderful church friends. It's taking time every morning to pull away and draw near to the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.

I had such a time this morning, and I was reminded of the supreme value of such time, how I wouldn't trade it for the world. A little while ago, I wrote something that captures what I'm trying to say. Perhaps it will inspire those of you who know what I mean, to draw near again.

No Greater Place to Be (A Prayer)

I have no greater place to be, no greater thing to do,
than to sit at Your feet and gaze at your beauty,
and listen to Your Word.

In Your presence is fullness of joy.

Your Word speaks peace to me.

With You my soul finds rest.

Fears are stilled; sorrows cease.

Lord, there is no one like You,
no other thing that can affect me this way.

Only You.

Only being with You, spending time alone with You.

When I am with You this way, in silence and stillness,

Time seems to stand still.

The clock within me slows to Your pace.

And it is a lovely pace.

My heart is refreshed, my mind is renewed.

I find I don’t ever want to leave this place, sitting here,

Alone with You.

It humbles me to know

While I draw near at no cost to me,

My place here came at a great cost to You.

I am here at the foot of the Cross.

Where You gave Your life for mine.

What manner of love is this, that you would die for me?

And now, call me Your own.

And offer me new mercies every morning.

And invite me to come, this close, every day.

Without fear, fully loved.

Until the day I see you face to face.