Archive for the ‘Writing Heavenly Father’s Day’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Publishing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 1–Starting a Blog

By mid-September 2009, copies of the draft of Heavenly Father’s Day were in the hands of my content reviewers. As I described in my previous entry Christian Discipleship in a Small Gesture, I had received encouragement from a stranger, and was looking forward to doing some research about publishing options.

Most of that August had been spent on a free, intensive online class on internet marketing called the Thirty Day Challenge. The stated goal of this class was to make your first dollar online. I started a blog called Easy Knitting Patterns for class purposes. I didn’t make a cent for the first three months, but I learned a lot. And to be fair, I wasn’t giving the first blog much effort once I started the Heavenly Father’s Day blog.

So what was this Thirty Day Challenge? It was a class presented in thirty daily lessons. It was “live” in August 2009 (meaning the teachers were readily available via forums each day), but the lessons have continued to be posted up to the date of this writing.

Ed Dale and friends teach about marketing research, setting up a blog, ranking high in Google search, making money from your blog, and becoming a market leader. If you hunt around on the web enough, I’m sure you can find these topics elsewhere. The beauty of the Challenge is that it’s all in one place and very well executed.

What was really interesting to me about the Thirty Day Challenge was that it came into my life exactly when I needed it. The Spirit first told me that I was going to need to learn website design in late May 2009. (As I mentioned in my post, God knows all about publishing) Just as I was reaching a lull in the flow of material in late July 2009, along came an invitation to the Challenge in my email in-box.

I managed to get through the thirty lessons (and, more importantly, the homework) by early September and started my Heavenly Father’s Day blog. With all that knowledge under my belt, I set to work writing about the process of writing. My goal was to tell the “behind the scenes” story of how the book came to be written. I’m enough of an optimist to think there are those who will find value in the story of my journey.

One of the things the Thirty Day Challenge really helped me with was fear of losing privacy. As late as July 2009, I was telling friends that not only was I not on Facebook, I had no intentions of signing up. In fact, there was a time when I was proud of the fact that Google search couldn’t find me. Ed Dale changed all that. He convinced me I couldn’t reach my goals as long as I was too wary to step out from behind my firewall.

It has been interesting to watch friend after friend pop up on Facebook over the past year . . . like watching popcorn sizzling in hot oil. Makes me feel like I did the right thing. And today, I guess, I’m a full-fledged social-media-using internet marketer.

As a side note, the 2010 Challenge is structured a little differently so it’s not so intense. If you are at all interested in internet marketing, or just want to learn about one topic (say, Twitter), check it out. The preseason lessons for this year go live on July 1, 2010. Tell Ed I sent you.

Now that I had a manuscript and a blog to go with it, my next step was to make a big decision . . . one which I had been studiously avoiding: How to publish?

Now that you’ve finished the story of writing Heavenly Father’s Day (so far), check out my entries about Christian Discipleship.

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PostHeaderIcon Writing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 6–The Last Chapter

Near the end of July 2009, I had come close to drafting the first nine chapters of Heavenly Father’s Day. But suddenly it was like someone had let all the air out of my balloon. There was a big gapping hole in Chapter 7. On top of that, I had decided my current Chapters 11 and 12 were really only one chapter. So now I was one chapter short, and I had no clue how to fill that void. I had material gathered for Chapters 10 and 11, but somehow I just couldn’t get excited about putting it all together into a draft. It wasn’t exactly writer’s block; it was more like a detour.

The first couple weeks in August, I hardly worked on the book at all. On the one hand, I felt guilty about not making progress. On the other hand, I had almost no desire to write. I didn’t feel inspired and excited the way I had when writing up to this point. And there were other things going on in my life that seemed to be very important to my overall effort–including an online, hands-on, time-intensive class on internet marketing called The Thirty Day Challenge that started on August 1. (More about that later!)

I had a brief flash of concern that I was going to be one of those people they were always talking about in the e-book articles I read. I was worried, for about 10 seconds, that I would never finish this book. After all, I was certainly not going to have it done in 72 hours. The e-book gurus all warned that if you didn’t get it done quickly, it might never get done.

But I kept telling myself this wasn’t that kind of book. This wasn’t something I could just throw together quickly to get it out the door, even if it wasn’t perfect. No. Heavenly Father’s Day was to be a reflection of what the Spirit wanted me to tell people. Maybe it didn’t have to be absolutely perfect, but a slap-dash job wouldn’t do, either.

I could force myself to make progress by working on side issues, like researching exact movie quotes. But I couldn’t sit down and write some un-inspired drivel, just because I felt like I had to write something. I kept telling myself that I was on God’s time, so I was just going to have to wait until more inspiration came my way.

As I looked up the scripture for my next preaching assignment (August 9), I was hoping this sermon would apply to the book, just like the last one had done. But as I read the passage, it just didn’t seem like it was going to lead me to an entire chapter’s-worth of material. I kept waiting.

Thursday morning before I was schedule to speak, I woke up telling myself I really needed to get that sermon outlined today. But first, I had a hair appointment. I also had a message on my cell phone from my step-mother. When I called her (on the way to the hairdresser’s) I told her how I was struggling with the last chapter.

She told me about a book she had been reading called The Shack. She said maybe I was supposed to read it and that maybe it would help me. I hung up the phone with a renewed sense of optimism. Maybe this new book was what I had been waiting for. It was like my balloon had been re-inflated. But I would have to wait a few days before I could get my hands on a copy.

Meanwhile, the next morning I woke up ready to write my sermon. The assigned scripture was about how God works in the mundane details of life. I started thinking about how God talks to us in mundane ways about mundane situations. About how our spiritual development most often occurs in our most mundane experiences.

The thoughts started flowing and I started taking notes while I was getting dressed. By the time I was ready for breakfast, I realized that this was not only my sermon, it was the last chapter. The wait was over.

The writing part would be smooth sailing from here. Pretty soon I would be telling people the manuscript was finished. But I still had no clue how I was going to get published. And what had I learned in that Thirty Day Challenge?

Next: Starting a Blog

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PostHeaderIcon Writing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 5–Don’t Run Ahead

By the end of May 2009, after successfully navigating most of the E-Book Check List, I thought I had everything I needed to get my book written. I began the rough draft of Heavenly Father’s Day, thinking I could just bang it all out in one month. But other things kept getting in the way–or so I thought.

I roughed out a website plan after looking at those of other people. I looked at lots of free internet marketing information on the web, and took lots of notes. I studied the style of other Christian authors, such as Rick Warren, Charles Swindoll, Charles Stanley, and Max Lucado. In fact, the ones I hadn’t read before looked so interesting I ended up reading them through (and taking more notes).

I was scheduled to preach on June 21. The theme was “Calm Our Storms.” I could see that just maybe this sermon might fit in somewhere near the end of the book. (And, in fact, it did.)

But toward the end of the month, I was frustrated with the fact that the end was still far off. The Spirit reminded me that I wasn’t to run ahead of God’s plan–that I was proceeding well and shouldn’t become anxious. The Spirit reassured me that even when I seemed not to be working, I was. I could be waiting, pondering, planning, researching, or otherwise furthering the work. It wasn’t necessary to actually write every day.

I got a call in late June from one of my reviewers. She had been looking over the outline I had sent her and was pleased with the direction I was headed. She told me a story about a sermon delivered in her church on Father’s Day.

The speaker mentioned that, just by chance, he had been scheduled to speak on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year. He said he realized while he was preparing that we have many special days for special things, but we never have a special day for God. My reviewer said she thought of me when he said this and considered it another confirmation of my work.

Way back in April, I had committed to serving as a counselor for our church’s Senior High Camp. I had hoped that by the time camp came along (in early July) that the book would be finished. It was not.

But once again, this act of service was not an interruption of the writing process, but a confirmation of it and a contribution to it. The spiritual development that enabled me to write this book in the first place just continued at camp.

It seemed to me like everything we discussed in our daily class at camp that week either fit nicely with or confirmed my message. I found myself explaining some things in my small group discussions just exactly as I had explained them in the book.

More importantly, I encountered some new ideas along with the campers. We did a really neat object lesson where we had to carry a bag of rocks around with us, symbolizing the guilt each of us carries around unnecessarily (because God has already forgiven us). This object lesson ended up in the book.

I told a few of the campers that I was writing a book called Heavenly Father’s Day. They were anxious to read it and asked me to let them know when it was published.

I came home encouraged once again. It wasn’t until I was back at home that I realized the campers were pretty close to my ideal reader.

So even as I was in the middle of writing, I continued to be fed. New material appeared, the appropriateness of my existing material was confirmed, and my efforts were encouraged.

Once again, the Spirit encouraged me by calling on me to trust in his words and in his message given through me. The Spirit confirmed that this was not my message, but his–not my will, but his. I am just the messenger. This insight from the Spirit really took the pressure off and I was comforted.

A week after camp (mid-July), I reviewed what I had written so far. There were some pretty big gaps I had no idea how to fill. But the Spirit told me not to worry about it–that he would provide. He told me to go forward in faith and to complete writing what had already been given to me.

So I kept on. Little did I know what challenge lay just over the horizon.

Next: The Last Chapter.

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PostHeaderIcon Writing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 4–The E-Book Check List

One thing that’s been very interesting to me all along while writing Heavenly Father’s Day is how the Holy Spirit seems to know how to write a publishable book. (I know I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised at this because God invented everything…including writing and publishing and reader psychology.)

The first instructions the Spirit had given me were to assemble everything I had written over the last twenty years: my spiritual journal, summaries of books I had read, every sermon I had given, and any other scrap of writing I could find. This all came up before I even started researching the topic of how to write an e-book.

But one of the “rules” of e-book publishing I ran into, in multiple places, was to use what you already have. Check.

Second rule:  find a title that is a hook. If you remember, I rediscovered “Heavenly Father’s Day” in an old sermon from 2005. Check.

Third rule:  have a clearly defined message that is distinguishable from the messages of others. Check.

Fourth rule:  know who your target audience is. This would enable me to write as if I was addressing an ideal reader. Check.

Fifth rule: have a plan for how to get published: e-book, print on demand, or traditional publishing. No check…yet.

On the brink of actually writing the book, the Spirit still hadn’t told me how to get the book published, except that I should try everything–traditional methods and internet methods.

Now the experience I gained in playing with eBay appeared to have been part of the whole plan. (“All things work together for good for those who love the Lord,” Romans 8:28.) The Spirit did suggest that I should consider learning website design.

The Spirit warned me that I would be subject to scorn, misunderstanding, and prejudice because of this book–a scary thought. One chapter, called “Ministry by Monogamy” will be especially controversial because of the extent to which it challenges traditional Bible theology. But lots of other parts will be controversial, too, in a Shack sort of way. This leads me to the next rule of publishing.

Sixth rule:  controversy is good. The worst thing is for people to be indifferent about your message. (And remember that scripture about not being lukewarm in your testimony.) Check.

As I continued to work on the book, I kept hearing sermons and testimonies that fit really well with what I had to say. This encouraged me to continue. But I also heard of others’ reactions to some of these same testimonies that let me know that many will think I’ve lost my mind. The Spirit has told me that I should be prepared for the pain this work will bring me.

General rule of life: be careful what you ask for…you may get it. In response to this rule, let me just say I have wanted to become a published author for at least fifteen years. (But I wasn’t planning on any pain. Then again, nothing worth having or being comes free.) Check.

By the end of May, I had mailed a tentative outline to a few people I had asked to be reviewers. I was making progress and look forward to finishing by late June. In my email one day, I got an offer for an e-course called something like “Finish Your E-book in 72 Hours or Less.” Could I do it? Should I do it? Or would I be running ahead of the Lord? Stay tuned!

P.S. In case you’re an aspiring writer, here are my two favorite resources:

Earma Brown:

Ellen Violette:

(I am not receiving any form of remuneration from either of these authors.)

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PostHeaderIcon Writing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 3–Finding Message and Audience

Now that I had the title and the topic, I had started to outline some chapters. But I still didn’t know why the Lord wanted me to write–what my key message was. I felt my book should be kind of along the lines of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.

However, at this point, I couldn’t see how my book would be that different. I needed to be able to clearly articulate how my message differed from his. But the Spirit had told me at the beginning that more would be revealed as I finished each step, so I just kept going.

By now it was early May 2009. The question of the book’s purpose weighed heavily on my heart one Friday night as I said my prayers. About two hours later, the Spirit woke me with the answer. The message is that (1) God wants to be a part of your life every day, and (2) you, as a Christian, are called to bring the peace of Jesus Christ into others’ lives. Armed with this additional direction, the message and flow of the book took shape

The next question I had was who is my ideal reader? The internet articles on getting published said to think of your target audience in terms of an ideal reader. Then have this ideal reader in mind as you write. I was already seeing how this was important as I considered what to include or leave out and how formal my style should be.

After several days of trying to figure this out for myself, the Spirit let me know that my ideal reader is someone like the people who worked for me at our convenience store. I took that to mean someone with these characteristics:

(1) intelligent enough to go to college, but either hadn’t gone or hadn’t finished,

(2) Christian, but not spiritual and not a Bible reader, and

(3) someone who had perhaps asked questions of ministers in the past, but had not received satisfying answers.

Mostly, this type of person would not be “set in their religious ways,” but would be open to what I had to share. The challenge is that this type of person tends not to be a big reader of any kind of religious book. In fact, many of my employees were not big readers, period.

In addition, the Spirit showed me that my goal would be to share the message of Jesus Christ in a way that a 21st century citizen of the United States, or really in any of the developed countries, would find easy to understand.

This led me to include many references recognizable to anyone familiar with current American popular culture. In updating the setting of Jesus’ parables and illustrations, I am seeking to make the basic principles of Christianity as culturally relevant to the average person living in my time as Jesus made them to those living in his time 2000 years ago.

So now I had title, topic, message, target audience, outline…what’s next? Oh…actually writing the book! And then there’s the stickiest question of all–how to publish?

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PostHeaderIcon Writing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 2–Making Sense of It All

I had pretty much finished transcribing my spiritual journal entries by April 2008. Next, the Spirit told me that, beside my spiritual journal, I was to consider using anything I had written over the last twenty years. This included the beginnings of a book I had dictated onto a micro-cassette in 1995, every sermon I had ever written (I was ordained in 1999), and miscellaneous other outlines and notes based on spiritual insight which I had written down but never used for anything.

I was also told to consider most of the non-fiction and religious books I had read in the last twenty years, which is a fairly large stack of books. Many of these I had been specifically led to read by the Spirit as part of my spiritual development. I began to appreciate the value of note cards. I did 4×6 note cards on everything and quickly had a stack of hundreds.

When I was about done with that, I starting wondering how to organize all that information. I struggled with how it all fit together. Where was the common thread? Usually an author knows what the basic theme is before she even begins. But I did not. It was like writing a book backwards. The only thing I could do was to rely on the Spirit to show me the way.

At one point I had index cards spread over most of my dining room table. I tried organizing my topics along the lines of ways God is like an earthly parent. Then I tried organizing things along the lines of “where much is given, much is expected.” But neither approach seemed quite right. I was putting together a jigsaw puzzle without benefit of the picture on the box, and doing it badly.

Then I remembered some notes I had written just a few months earlier, in February 2009. The Spirit woke me up in the middle of the night and began putting thoughts in my head. At the time, I assumed these thoughts were supposed to lead to my next sermon. I had gotten up and made notes, with lots of arrows and diagrams.

The next day I had written it all out like an outline. Six handwritten pages. This was way too much material to be a sermon. Not only that, it had nothing to do with the next sermon topic I had been assigned. I had just set the notes aside, not knowing what I was supposed to do with them.

Now, these notes ended up being the perfect outline for most of my book. It was as if someone had handed me the lid to the jigsaw puzzle box. Suddenly, I could see how all the pieces fit together.

This experience confirmed for me that I was following God’s plan. He had given information to me before I needed it. I was just a little slow in remembering and recognizing what I had. And what I had was a topic–discovering your personal ministry–and an outline.

Now that I knew what the book was about, I needed a title. Some of the internet articles I have read on getting published said you have to have a hook–a title to get people to pick your book off the shelf and look at it. One day as I was looking through my old sermons, I realized the theme of one I had written in 2005 would be the perfect hook I needed:  Heavenly Father’s Day.

Despite having the title and the topic, I still wasn’t ready to write. I had a new “burning” question:  what was the message?

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PostHeaderIcon Writing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 1–Transcribing My Journals

After nine years in the convenience store business, my husband and I sold our store in mid-2008. About the same time that we were making the deal to sell, the Spirit impressed on me that I should start entering my spiritual journal into the computer. I was told that eventually I would write a book.

However, the Spirit told me not to worry at this point about how the book was to be published or what form it would take (physical book, e-book, or blog). I was further told not to worry about approach, theme, or title. The Spirit said I was to proceed one step at a time. Once I finished Step 1 (entering my six full 5×7 notebooks worth of journals), I would be given Step 2.

So basically, I was being asked to “step out in faith” in the writing of this book. I was reminded of the scripture that says we will be taught “precept upon precept…line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). And this is indeed the way Heavenly Father’s Day came to be written.

Let me tell you–transcribing handwritten journal entries is not an exciting thing to do. It helped that I am a pretty decent typist, but it’s still grueling work. And I could only stand to do it for a few hours at a time.

Although I have to say it was interesting to go back and look at what my issues were twenty years ago. I just don’t understand people who wish they could go back and re-do some portion of their life. I personally am happy to be done with child care and discipline worries.

But it is also interesting to see how some things never change. I was always thinking about where my career was headed back then, and I’m still thinking about that now. Only the geography and the options have changed.

I worked on entering my journals in fits and starts. Months went by when I completely forgot about it and instead focused on trying to start an eBay business. After all, I wasn’t gainfully employed, so earning some cash selling my old junk on eBay seemed like a good plan. And, in fact, the Spirit encouraged me to try some sort of business on the internet.

In mid-February (2009), the Spirit told me to back off of my frantic selling on eBay and to return to my spiritual journal work. By early April, I had put eBay on a slow simmer and had turned my full attention to the Lord’s work. Just as I finished entering the journals (all six of them), my faith was rewarded, and I was told what to do next.

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PostHeaderIcon Heavenly Father’s Day – Discovering My Spiritual Gift

You were born with at least one unique spiritual gift. However, this gift may never become known to you unless you prepare to receive it. Sometimes you have to experiment to discover it. Sometimes someone else will point it out to you.

Here is the story of discovering my spiritual gift. It takes place years ago, when I was first learning to live by faith. This discovery would ultimately lead to writing the book Heavenly Father’s Day.

Read the rest of this entry »

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PostHeaderIcon Heavenly Father’s Day at the Garden Gate

Every book has a story behind the story. Over the next several blog posts, I’d like to share with you the story of how the book Heavenly Father’s Day came to be written.

Imagine you are standing at a garden gate. You go through the gate to the path leading into the garden. Up ahead, maybe 15 or 20 feet away, you see a statue. Oh, you think, I’d like to see that statue up close. So you walk down the path toward the statue.

Once you get there, you admire the statue. You walk all around it to appreciate it from all angles. As you travel the circular path around the statue, you notice another path going away from the statue—one you could not see from your original path. As you look down this new path, you see a bright splashing fountain in the distance. You are drawn to get a closer look at the fountain, so you head down this new path.

Once you reach the fountain, yet another path and another destination appear—and another—and another. If you have ever read anything about garden design, you may realize that this is actually the way large gardens are designed. They are supposed to draw you further and further along, always promising something new and interesting to see.

This is the way God works in our lives. God is a master garden designer. He has designed your life as a garden. As you reach each destination, he shows you something else ahead, some new goal to strive for.

Sometimes we are tempted to create our own grand design. We like to do five-year plans, ten-year plans, career plans. Those are all nice to think about and to help us make choices now: what college or tech school to attend, what subjects to study, which corporation to work for, and so on throughout our lives. But just remember that old saying about “the best laid plans of mice and men.” Don’t be disappointed if you suddenly find a garden path that dead-ends or goes somewhere unexpected.

Christians are particularly called to let God lead them through the garden—to be in control of their lives. We call it “stepping out in faith.” Aside from the garden analogy, my favorite visual interpretation of this principle can be seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indiana is near the end of his search for the Holy Grail when his path seems to end at a great chasm, much too large to jump across. He remembers the clue about stepping out in faith. He takes a step and hits a rock bridge, previously invisible to him. His faith is rewarded, and he is allowed to proceed on his quest.

The path of faith is the one I was asked to travel in writing my first book, Heavenly Father’s Day. But before I get specifically into how the book came to be written, I’d like to share with you the story of Discovering My Spiritual Gift.

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