Posts Tagged ‘message’

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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