The Lengthy Process of Writing a Book

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Five years ago I felt like God asked me to write a book. It wasn’t something I’d ever planned on doing, but I was up for the challenge. Or so I thought. I had no idea how long of a process this would be, how many disappointments I would face, how discouraged I would get, or how much my book would change over the years.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you will know that I used to post about it often. Lately, not so much…

Originally I wanted to write the story of how I found the real Jesus (or rather how He found me) in the midst of cultic, legalistic Christianity. I was heartbroken over the many people who grew up like me, but chose to reject God.

I’m honestly glad that first book didn’t get written, because there was a prideful ring to it…kind of like, “I survived and still love Jesus. What’s your problem?” Blech!

My book changed genres over the years from Memoir to Christian Living to Cultural Commentary. I went to multiple writers conferences and even worked with a few agents unofficially. My finished book proposal still told my story, but wove it together with similar lies I saw in normal Western Christianity. It was a better book, but I still didn’t love it.

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Then I got broken. About two years ago my husband and I began going through some excruciating conflict at the church where he was a youth pastor. He ended up being asked to resign and we walked away from people and a ministry that we loved dearly. I’d never experienced pain like that…not even growing up in my cult. It nearly destroyed us. But God never lost control.

Broken myself, I began to read other people’s stories of being broken by Christianity. I was willing to hear from them, even when I didn’t agree with their conclusions. The more I read, and talked, and processed, the more I realized that the enemy wasn’t just legalism. People were being burned by normal churches and ministries just as much as they were by ultra-conservative ones. I began to see patterns emerge.

Behavior based, religious Christianity is what destroys people. The unconditional love of God gets replaced with lists of acceptable actions. People feel shame and condemnation when they fail. Hearts are ignored. The real Jesus is missing along with His scandalous grace and unconditional love. Legalistic Christianity, like I experienced in my teens, is just a piece of a bigger issue.

Church people across denominational lines hold little god-boxes filled with tradition, religious practices, and our ideas of God. We work religiously to appease these gods-in-a-box. But the real God, powerful, incomprehensible, and definitively not boxed-sized, gets forgotten.

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God PUT my husband and I in our current church. There’s no other way to explain it. We landed there broken and hurting, and we met Jesus. I didn’t know churches like this existed. Real people, being real about themselves, and living fully in the grace and love of a real God. We weren’t condemned, or pushed to have answers, or even encouraged to get it together. We were just accepted brokenness and all. The Jesus I encountered blew my mind! And it made me think…

What if God isn’t who we think He is? What if He is much closer and much more real that we can imagine? What if all He really wants is our hearts? What if He wants us to flourish with abundant life?

If my heart longs for this kind of God, then I know that other people are longing for Him too! With this in mind, I began to rewrite my book. I’m still sharing my story, but I’m asking a lot more questions. I’m inviting my readers to join me on a quest so that we can search together for the real Jesus.

I love this new book of mine! I’ve never felt like that before.

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Typically I’m a very temperamental writer. But I can literally be having the most terrible day, and sit down at a coffee shop with my book, read where I left off, and start excitedly writing again. I’ve cried over each chapter.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I’m going back to a local writers conference in a couple of weekends. There will be agents and editors to meet with again, and I will have my new book proposal. And then…who knows? I’ve been at this place many times before, and nothings happened. But that’s okay! Here we go again. 🙂

And I need your help!

  • First by praying. Please pray for me as I finished tweeking my proposal and one page (mini proposal). Pray as I go to the conference that God will guide my steps and interactions.
  • And secondly by sharing. Publishers want platform…which means numbers on social media and such. I’ve come a long way since the beginning, but still have a large distance to go. You can help in a couple of ways.
    1. Share one of my blog posts that you enjoy and ask your friends to check out my blog.
    2. Like my Facebook writer page and share it with your friends.
    3. Invite your friends to like my Facebook writer page.
    4. Sign up for my email list (there is a link on my home page).

Thanks!! 🙂

Ultimately, I don’t really care if now is the time for this book to be published or not. I know that God is totally in control and that His timing is perfect. I’m excited about where I am at right now with Jesus…working through things and sorting out the junk. I’m loving sharing what I discover with you. It’s a great place to be!

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The Only Condemnation was in the Commentary

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I’ve reached a pretty important conclusion. God isn’t who we think He is.

I realize that the Old Testament God often has a bad reputation. It might be hard to hate Jesus, unless you’re an uber-religious leader, but Jehovah of the Old Testament does some pretty terrible things. He’s harsh and demanding.

Or is He?

I’ve been puttering around in the Old Testament during my morning devo time for the past four months or so. Basically ever since a well-known preacher told Christians to “unhitch” from it…I know, I’m a total rebel. 🙂

So far I’ve made it through Judges, Ruth, and First Samuel. I’m working my way through Second Samuel right now. What I’ve found has shocked me! Half of the stories are missing. Or rather, the stories are there but certain parts I remembered are gone.

  • Did you know God doesn’t seem to care that Deborah is a woman in leadership? There is no negativity or suggestion that she is only leading because no good men are available. In fact, she is celebrated. That was new to me!
  • Struggling with fear and insecurity, Gideon needs not one but two signs from God before he obeys. God patiently provides miracles for Gideon without comment (along with the strength to win an impossible battle). God does not appear fazed by Gideon’s needs or weaknesses. He never condemns Gideon for a lack of faith.
  • Samson is a narcissistic, womanizing, self-centered jerk who only wants revenge. There is no record of him ever repenting or caring about God at all. Even at the end, when God gave Samson back his strength, Samson only wanted it so that he could kill his enemies. Yet, somehow Samson ends up in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews chapter eleven.

Do you know what has hit me over and over again? The utter lack of condemnation. The Bible records facts in a historical, matter of fact way. God interacts with broken people to accomplish His purposes. Nothing stops Him. And the only condemnation is in the commentary. I actually had to stop reading the commentary in my study Bible because it was so irritating to me. If God’s not condemning these people, we sure don’t have any business adding it.

good-1123013_1920Condemnation is what we often hear in Sunday school, sermons, devotionals, etc. We humans can’t seem to get away from an obsession with behaviors and a desire to moralize and judge. We have to make sure people know that certain actions are bad.

But, is that really important?

The last five chapters of Judges detail some historical events that happened before there was a king and when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” They aren’t pretty stories. It’s a dark time in the nation of Israel.

Judges ends on that note. The tabernacle, the priesthood, and the worship of Jehovah have become twisted and corrupted. Everyone is doing whatever they want.

Next, the book of Ruth jumps back in time and tells the story of two women who lived during Judges. Ruth was a Moabite who came back to Israel with her mother-in-law after her husband’s death. She ends up marrying another Israelite man and goes on to be the great-great-grandmother of King Solomon (David’s son) who built the temple.

Why is this important? Well, in Deuteronomy 23:3, the Law declares that no Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD even to the tenth generation. There are only four generations between Ruth and Solomon! What? What kind of ridiculous mercy and lavish grace is being shown by Jehovah? What happened to the harsh, demanding God who wrote the Law?

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Maybe He isn’t who we assume He is. I mean, who better to disregard the Law than the One who wrote it? Maybe the Law was never meant to be perfectly followed…maybe it was meant to show us the heart of God.

Finally we arrive at First Samuel, and I love this part. We left off chronologically at the end of Judges (since Ruth happens somewhere in the middle) with terrible and tragic situations in a spiritually dark time. Into that darkness comes the prophet Samuel.

There is so much to unpack that I’m just going to use bullet points.

  • Despite the fact that most of the country is in spiritual darkness, Samuel’s parents Hannah and Elkanah seem to know the LORD personally. God always has been, and always will be, found by those who seek Him! 
  • After being given a miracle baby, Hannah gives her young son back to God and sends him to live with the priest Eli and serve in the tabernacle. Eli’s sons are totally out of control and yet are serving as priests. Worship at the tabernacle has been corrupted by thievery and prostitution. But this doesn’t stop God!
  • The beginning of Chapter Three declares that “the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” But, in Chapter Two, an unnamed Man of God shows up out of nowhere and gives Eli a prophecy about his sons. Where did this guy come from? What is his story? I don’t know, but God is still moving and working even though corporate worship is a mess!
  • And then directly after the declaration that God is not speaking to people, He audibly calls the child Samuel. Verse seven of Chapter Three specifically says that at this point Samuel does not yet know God and has never had God’s words revealed to him. All that is about to change! Samuel will go on to become a mighty prophet of the LORD.

Into a time of spiritual darkness and depravity, Jehovah shows up. He calls people, speaks to people, and patiently reveals Himself to them. He isn’t harsh, or demanding, or condemning. They haven’t been following the Law, but He doesn’t even mention that.

I don’t think God is Who we think He is…

It’s not that God doesn’t point out sin, because He does. But He points it out mater-of-factly with abundant grace and truth and an utter lack of condemnation. His conviction is meant to draw people to Him, not push them away. There is no shame or judgement. The more I read the Old Testament, the more Jehovah reminds me of Jesus. Crazy, isn’t it?

Part of our brokenness resulting from sin is an inability to relate to God. The Bible calls us enemies. Not that God is our enemy, but we are His. And yet, He is purposefully and passionately pursuing us. He always has been and He always will. (More on that next time.) 🙂

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The Vine and the Branches…But No Religion

 

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I had a friend ask me a question yesterday that sent me on a wild journey of thought. What I found surprised me, and I’m super excited to share it with you! Here is her question.

“How do we attach and re-attach ourselves to the Vine without it being works?”

She was referring to John 15 and the familiar passage about abiding in the Vine. Jesus is speaking.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:1-5.

I have heard this passage preached in a very works-based way. I have also heard it preached less “worksy” but with a checklist at the end…Ten Things to do to Abide in the Vine, etc. Abide isn’t a word we use anymore in everyday English. What does the word even mean, let alone an abstract concept like abiding in Christ?

As I read the passage again this morning, four little words jumped out at me. And it changed everything. 

Abide in me, and I in you” John 15:4

The grape vine grows down into the ground, sucking up water and nutrients, providing life for the branches. The branches are not doing anything. They aren’t trying desperately to hold onto the vine, trying to remain in it, trying to stay attached. They are just automatically part of it. The vine’s life and strength are in the branches. And because of that life, the branches are able to bear fruit.

We are so quick, as humans, to look for what we have to do. Religion, the business of appeasing gods, comes naturally to us. But that desire to appease is part of our old nature, not our new one. We have to remember that!

tori-1976609_1920I really believe that religion, more than anything, is the true enemy of God, especially within Christianity. It’s subtle, it distracts; it makes us believe we have effort to offer. It takes away from the beauty and wonder of the free gift. And it turns a life-giving friendship into dutiful servanthood.

Can I stretch your mind a little?

What if true Christianity isn’t about a checklist, or behaviors, or a list of rules to follow? What if it is about a restored life? What if, because we have been restored and reconnected, our lives are transformed? Not because of effort or determination or discipline, but because a new life-force flows within us? The life of the Vine.

Do you believe that? Did you feel your heart give a leap of hope? That’s the Spirit. Our life-force. 🙂

Here is the simple and beautiful gospel.

We have all been broken by sin and that sin separates us from God. Our very core has been corrupted, and the ones God created to be His friends are now His enemies. But He would not let us go…His love is far too great! So Jesus came and died, paying the price for sin once and for all. He rose again demonstrating His power over death and sin. If we will admit that we need forgiveness and trust in Jesus alone to save us, we will be restored.

It gets better! Not only has God forgiven all of our sins through the death of Jesus, He gives us His very Spirit to dwell within us. The Holy Spirit is all about restoration and transformation. If we will let Him, He will not only show us our broken places, He will empower us to heal. He will transform us into the image of God we were meant to be.

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True abiding has nothing to do with action or works, and everything to do with resting in our position. We don’t DO anything. We accept salvation. We accept the Spirit. We accept the life, and the transformation, and the power He offers. We accept His friendship, and we live as friends. We believe the truth about God and ourselves. As we rest in the Vine and in the Power that flows through Him, we will automatically bear fruit. Because that’s what happens with healthy branches who are connected to the vine.

And where does following God in obedience fit with all of this?

“Obedience is the natural offspring of trust-motivated love. All true obedience arises out of the heart and is attended by a deep inner sense of personal delight. You could call it obedience, or you could call it friendship.” – Pastor Ty Gibson

I love that! ❤ ❤ And I would love to hear your thoughts too.

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