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Origin of the Species: My Book’s Evolution and the Big Bang of His Words

18 Apr

“The photography and concept are exceptional. However, despite there being lots of interest in your proposal, I am afraid that we must pass…”

Senior Acquisitions Editor,
Zondervan Publishing
August 15, 2007

Only a few months earlier in May, I was walking on cloud nine. After two years of collecting photographs and verses, we pitched our concept:, a hardcover, glossy, coffee-table book, filled with colorful images and scripture to the largest Christian Publisher around; and the response was beyond my wildest dreams.

“This is really beautiful! It would be an honor to work with you!” Sue beamed excitedly over the phone to my partner Keith and me from her Zondervan headquarters in Michigan. “I have big plans for this work, maybe something like what we did with Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life. We’ll start with some revisions, but all I really need to do is get your book before the board at the end of this summer…then we’ll go full speed ahead and with a national launch.”

Preparing to become a Christian Superstar dominated my thought-life all summer; “What is my best side for the camera?”  “How much of the back-story do I tell interviewers?” There was a concern about how the fame and money might change Ava and me, so I determined we would stay in Danville and try to lead “normal” lives.

As August came into view, the anticipation grew. I was scheduled to meet up with Keith that afternoon and just before I left, I felt the Lord speak to my heart, “I love you. I love this book. I have so many great plans. Don’t be surprised if things work out differently than you think.”

“Wow!” I thought to myself, “This book is going to be even bigger than I imagined! If God himself is saying He has great plans…maybe I’ll even be on Oprah!” (At this point, I didn’t yet comprehend that God is not impressed with TV personalities and media exposure. He admires broken and contrite hearts.)

Yet, becoming a World Renown Christian Author was never my plan. Two years earlier, at the start of 2005, authoring a book was the last thing I had planned to do with my life. Having graduated from UC Berkeley with a Rhetoric degree, law school was on the horizon. Yet deep down I had reservations about signing my life away to a career that would take me far from my daughter. “Lord, I just don’t want to wake up thirty years from now wondering what I’m supposed to really be doing with my life and why I’m so far from it. If you want me to go into law, great. If not, please change my plans.”

While my prayer came from a very genuine place, I had no real idea what I had just done to myself! My life was no longer my own; I had just signed away the right to have things done “my way.”  God had His own version of “Ari Fry” and he was about to let me in on the plan.

Not more than a few days later, succinctly and straight to my heart God said, “You are not going to law school. You have finished that path to it’s end. I have some work I need you to do with your brother, your mother, and a book.” While I was excited that there seemed to be a new game plan for my life, straight from the Big Guy upstairs…I had no idea what it all meant.

God’s mysterious pronouncement about my future began to take shape within two weeks. Seemingly out of the blue, a friend shared a longstanding dream to create a coffee-table book that would make Christianity accessible through images. Almost as soon as his words left his mouth, I felt the Holy Spirit bolt through me confirming this to be “the book” God had mentioned. I thought to myself, “Wow, this God stuff really works!”

In the years leading up to our pitch for Zondervan, as I took the images, matched them with verses and photo-shopped key words, hearing from God was no longer a rare occasion…we spoke everyday. As the body of work grew, so did my eyes and ears to hearing His lead. In one instance, while hiking down a path, God told me, “Stop, get down low, and look to your left.” In a world of it’s own, crawled a green ladybug on the spike of a thistle. Another time, God said to me, “Make the ‘R’ bigger. No, much bigger.” He was right, I was thinking too small, and once I adjusted the size, the whole verse fell into place.  It was a sweet time of doing what I love with the one I love.

So as the summer of 2007 came to a close and the call came in that afternoon from Sue at Zondervan, this total direction shift, a complete 180, seemed to come out of left field. Keith’s face was overshadowed with sadness, I had a hard time comprehending what was happening. I was scared to ask, “What did Sue say? Did you talk to her this afternoon?”

“The are killing their ‘Gifts and Inspirational’ department. They are losing money and it’s not an essential part of the company, so our book would be too expensive for them to produce because of all the imagery.” Punch in the stomach, I was out for the count. Didn’t see that one coming…at least, not at first. As I sat there reeling from the blow, I remembered what God had told me just that morning, “I have so many great plans. Don’t be surprised if things work out differently than you think.” Ouch, I guess His “differently” wasn’t the same as my “differently.” And as crushed as I was, I gave a champagne toast that night to the fact that I had heard correctly form God.

As the years have passed, we self-published, but that was too costly to support long-term. We’ve pushed on several doors, hoping a publisher would catch the vision; but each door seemed barricaded. We even recently had a way back into Zondervan, but ironically it was Round Two in the ring, ending this time with yet another punch to the gut. All the doors just keep closing…until now!

I found my Open Door.

My “Open Door that no one can shut.” Revelations 3:8

INTRODUCING…My eBook! Click Here for my $3.99 eBook

(The book will be accessible in your iBook app)

Low production costs, no gatekeeper publishers, my work can finally be sent out to do what it was always intended to do; give viewer’s a visually rich experience with the Bible.

While this was not what I had in mind when God proposed a book deal, nor what I anticipated when He mentioned His “great plans,” for this book, in the meantime He certainly has reworked, transformed  and upgraded it’s author. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Here are a few Excepts from the Book:

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How do you work this thing? re:The Bible

11 Apr

The Bible scared me when I first considered picking it up. It wasn’t the Bible itself as much as the fact I had no idea how to start reading it or what all those names and numbers meant. And while we now have digital Bibles to make this process easier; I feel printed Bibles still allow a more interactive experience (that is, at least until my hologram Bible is produced, jk but not really). So…here’s a crash course in Passage Finding! This way the next time someone references like, let’s say, Matthew 12:15, you’ll know where to find it.

First off, utilize the Table of Contents in the front. There’s NO SHAME in looking up the page number. Look for the Book or Author name, in this case “Matthew.”

Next, find the Chapter Number just after the Book or Author Name in the top left or right corner. In this case, we are looking for “12.” Some books like Jude have only 1 chapter, while other books like Psalms have 150.

Finally, once you have located the Large Chapter Number within the text, then you will need to look for the Small Verse Number. This is harder to find because most times it’s hidden between words or even part of a separate paragraph. Looking closely, we find Verse “15” leading the pack. (The chapter number, 12 is separated and followed by the verse number, 15 using the “:” symbol).

There you have it, “Matthew 12:15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all who were ill.”

One last note, for many years I thought it was “wrong” to write in my Bible. “It’s a Holy Book,” I thought to myself, “I can’t mark it up.” Some of this mindset might have come from a reverence for “The Word,” but more than likely thinking back, it came from all those years using school text books. At the start of each year teachers would reprimand us, threaten us, and commit to invoicing us should we make a single mark in their precious text books! Someone finally straightened this issue out for me and gave me permission to write in my Bible. Hence: I HEREBY GIVE YOU FULL PERMISSION TO WRITE, MARK, NOTE, AND HIGHLIGHT YOUR BIBLE.

What did or has kept you from reading your Bible?