Posts Tagged ‘sermon’

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 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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