Friday, February 27, 2004

I Keep Trying to Make This Work

My editor taught me when I was writing "Boy Meets Girl" that the sentences or sections of an authors work that he particularly likes are usually the parts that need to be cut. He called them "darlings." The following is an example of a darling that I need to bury. I keep trying to make it fit into chapter 3 and it just doesn't. I swear I've pasted it into a hundred different parts of this chapter and then taken it out again. Aaarghghg!

So I've decided to put it here as a way of saying that it IS NOT going to be in the book. I mean I might use a sentence or two, but...oh it is. (Thank you for letting me vent)

"Some people say they’re wary of organized religion. My childhood predisposed me to be suspicious of organized anything. My dad was a self-taught entrepreneur who had dropped out of high school and built a successful career by self-motivated hard work. He never went the normal route; never did the group plan. He figured things out himself and taught me to do the same.

When I turned 6 my parents decided to home school me. Back in the early 1980s home schooling was brand new and an almost subversive endeavor. It was cool. You felt like a rebel. Public school was something scary like the Imperial Death Star. Big yellow buses came to the neighborhood, swallowed up children and took them away. I didn’t need a school. I could learn on my own.

Like many Christians my faith was often two parts Americanism and one part Christianity with a good dose of self-esteem thrown in. The poster on the wall of one Sunday school class read: “God made me and God don’t make no junk.”

I received the subtle but pervasive message of independence in my faith. As one writer put it, my faith was about Jesus and me, not Jesus and “we.”I remember being told that if I had been the only sinner in the world Jesus would have died just for me. Now I treasure the fact that God loves us individually and that Christ died for me. But it seems that even this truth can be twisted into a celebration of self at the expense of the fact that God’s amazing plan has always been to save for himself a people. Since the days of Adam and Eve there have always been at least two sinners in need of saving. Today millions have been saved through faith in Christ and yet with our rugged individualist tendency we find a way to make God’s great plan of salvation mostly about ourselves.

Maybe that’s why we love to talk about having a “personal relationship” with Jesus. It’s a wonderful truth—but do we misuse it? Hey, it’s nice to know that no matter how annoying other Christians might be, we can go into our rooms, shut the door and have our personal, exclusive relationship with Jesus. If other Christians let us down we can make it on our own.

But can we really? And were we meant to try?"

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Encouragement to Press On

The following email is from a man who recently moved across the country to join our church. In case anyone misunderstands, it's not my desire to have people move to join my church. This is a unique situation. What's inspiring is his willingness to make the local church a priority. His words strengthened my resolve as I plunge into another chapter and face another blank screen. The writing of this book is being carried along by the prayers of the members of my church. Here's the email:


Mindy and I were reflecting on some of the influences that brought us to Maryland. One thing that was catalytic in our decision making process was your message "Commitment to the Local Church." There were two areas that you touched in that sermon, if memory serves, that aided us immeasurably.

The first was by way of discussing your own testimony of coming to Covenant Life Church. You saw your Paul, and put yourself in the way of his counsel. Since being here, I have been the recipient of dear and priceless counsel. Biblical fellowship and discipleship is a priority in the pulpit and among the pastors, and has rightfully affected the whole body! We are truly blessed to be here!

Secondly, you made the observation that people would move across the country for a job, but not for a church. At that point Mindy and I truly resonated with your words, and we knew that there was a church out there for us, and if we needed to move to find it, then so be it.

We got a chance to apply your message. Covenant Life Church is home to us. God carried us here, planted us here. There is no comfort zone worth clinging to, no job, no house, no neighborhood, no ministry, no money, no family worth the neglect, the trivializing, or the trading away of the local church. Dear and sweet is Christ's church to us, and dearer every day is Covenant Life. There is NO sacrifice in us being here!

This being said, we wanted to give you some encouragement in your writing task this week. We were terribly excited when we heard the topic for your book. In my estimation the local church has never been more marginalized in America than it is today. Never has more of the local church's role been handed to others, be it parachurch, media, or government. We need your voice, Josh. We need a call to revival of coherent, Gospel-centered, Biblical koinonia, and a revival of LOVE for His church. May your pen draw thousands to look with fresh eyes on the church as Christ's bride and never settle for less than passionate commitment!

Our family is praying for you this week!

In Christ,

P.S. I'm going to reserve a case of the new book. I plan to distribute it to all my family members in hopes that upon reading it they will downgrade me from "insane" to "nuts."

Monday, February 23, 2004

Wrapping Up Chapter 2

Today was a good day of writing.

I finally shelved a lot of the work I had done and started over. So often that's the key to breaking through confusion and getting something good on paper.

I'll start on chapter 3 tomorrow after a phone call with my editor.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Chapter 2, Wisdom Teeth and a Cover Shoot

We had to switch info on our website and so it's down for a day or so. I don't understand anything about the web.

I got my wisdom teeth out last week. It totally blew the week for writing. I was knocked out. Sore, throbbing pain, completely unable to think. I started to get anxious that I'd never come out of it.

But yesterday things started to clear up. Today I started work on chapter 2 in earnest. What I wrote wasn't that good, but I was caught up in the glorious subject. At one point I put my head down and just let out a whimper because I was so aware of how unworthy I am to write about God's plan and purpose in the church. Who am I? I am nothing! And I'm trying to explain why the church matters so much. If God can use this little book it will be a miracle...well, what is new? That's true of everything I've written.

They did a photoshoot for the book cover. I think they shot it in Portland. It looks really cool. I'm very pleased. The original cover designs were really stupid and boring. So the fact that Multnomah was willing to listen to my ideas and actually shoot an original picture for it is a big blessing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

My Editor's Response to Chapter 1 Rough Draft

Hi Joshua,
You totally made my week. I had you on my list to contact today in the
(rather cautious) hope that you were making progress. I'm stunned.
And I'm impressed. You have a very solid, easy to read chapter one--and
that is huge. And your evil twin must be locked up in the basement.
Think I can hear the snarl from here.

I've been praying for real freedom for you, and I will continue to
do so. This book is so close to your life, and dear to God's heart, that
I pray that it will continue to come to you with relative ease. What a
sweet gift that would be to you and Shannon. Don't slow down or start
second guessing. Honestly, this is the book. It's happening. I bet we
use every paragraph you wrote--somewhere if not where you have it now.
And every graph will help us get to the next graph, the next page, that
we couldn't have gotten to otherwise. Write a skinny, fast book. Don't
worry about homely. Write a book as boney as a Mexican cow. Then we'll
take it to the feed lot and fatten it up. It'll be a prize winner.

Just keep talking to a table full of readers who love God and His Word and
want to love Him more. There's no "they" in this book, just "you and me."
You have real readers with names and stories. See their faces. See their
hands going up when they're not quite convinced. Believe the best about
them. Love them with all your heart. Look them in the eye when you write.
And out will come the right skinny cow. Don't you love my garbled advice?
You bless me, brother. So lose those teeth, but see if they'll let you can
keep the wisdom.—David

Letter to My Editor Re: Chapter 1

Hey, Dave. Good news and bad news. Which do you want?

Okay, I'll start with the bad. I need to get my wisdom teeth removed this week. I'm serious. I was supposed to do this last year when I was writing NEAH but I put it off. Now they're starting to hurt. So I have the surgery scheduled for this Thursday afternoon. I thought it was better for me to get it done now instead of having this hinder work as work on the book picks up. But this means I'll lose Thursday through Saturday for writing. This is a little discouraging, but I'm trusting God.

The good news is that I think God has really helped me in my work on chapter 1. I think this is the first time I've gotten something to you early! C'mon and give me a little praise! Of course I might be really discouraged after you read it and tell me it stinks. But by the time you read it I'll be completely knocked out in a dentist's chair and won't care.

Anyway, chapter 1 is attached. It's missing some of the elements we talked about. For example it doesn't share much of my own story. I wrote a long section on my own "church journey" but decided to hold it. I think it might work as the beginning of chapter 2.

I think I'm writing smarter than I have in the past. I feel like I have you and Heather whispering in my ear about problem, premise and promise. I worked hard to hit those and not get distracted. Okay, you can tell I'm feeling pleased with myself. I need you to be a good editor and cut me back down to size.

Talk to you soon.


Monday, February 02, 2004

The Opening Post About My New Book

I'm writing a book that will challenge my generation to make the local church a priority. It will be a small book that will share why God wants us to be passionate and committed to His church. This weblog is a way to record the process and communicate with friends who visit my website and give their suggestions and feedback.

On Friday and Saturday I did a retreat with my editor David Kopp. I know that one of his goals was to grab me, shake the complacency out of me and get me into a "deadline mindset" with this project.

Well, he was successful. The reality of writing a new book by the end of March has landed on me. Smashed me, really. I can't believe I'm here again. I'm thrilled and I'm terrified.

Shannon is so awesome. So encouraging. "You can write this book," she said. "This is an important book. It's going to be the most important one you've written. It will be easy for you." God, I love this woman! She believes in me when I don't.

This morning I woke up at 3 a.m. to comfort Joshua Quinn who was crying. I ended up staying up and working on chapter one. I know I'm in book-mode when I wake up in the middle of the night and all I can think about is the book.

I'm a little scared by this topic. Not only is it weighty but I'm afraid no one will want to read it. This book is different than my first three. They tapped into this amazing "felt-need" in people. People want to figure out relationships. They want to read about dating. They know they need help with lust. But the church? Who wants to read a book about the church? Could anyone imagine something more boring.

I guess that's exactly the mindset that I want to change.

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