Today Was the Day!

Today, Tuesday, October 17, 2023, my new book, Jesus Shines Through, is officially released for publication.

I started this project back in around the year 2000. With repeated encouragement from John Howard, former owner and CEO of Howard Publishing, and others, I worked on my book, set it down, worked on it again, set it down—trying to hear the Holy Spirit’s whispers,

The stories behind writing the book would make its own short, interesting essay. All the writers I hired…

Why did I hire other writers?

After writing my memoir, Weeping May Endure for a Night in the mid-90s, followed by co-writing Angels Over Waslala, with Pablo Yoder, I realized I could produce a much better book with help from a co-writer.

So, I hired a few writers. They say great writers have full wastebaskets. (You should see mine.) I think most great writers have huge scrapyards of failed attempts too.

  • A well-known Amish-Mennonite author was doing a fairly good job working with me. But that ended when his life fell apart, he left his wife, and disappeared for a season.
  • I hired a New York Times best-selling author. He wrote a great book proposal for me, which we sent to thirteen publishers. They all rejected our proposal. It wasn’t his fault; he did a great job. I called one of the publishers and asked why the book was rejected. She graciously told me, “There’s a lot of pain. But no redemptive closure.” She was right. And so, with her valuable feedback, we continued, determined to write a good book or shelf the whole project.
  • Then there was the ghostwriter who authored some bestsellers for a few famous people you probably know. Let’s just say it wasn’t a compatible, collaborative working relationship. After discussing it with John, I paid him his fee, cut my losses, and moved on.
  • There were two other authors that just didn’t work out. Maybe I’m hard to work with.
  • Then, in December of 2020, I met Andrew Weaver. We had an almost instant bond. Andrew took all six of the former manuscripts and combined them into one. We met together, wept, laughed, prayed, and poured our best writing skills into the final version of Jesus Shines Through.

So here we are; the book officially launches today, and while something in me wants to celebrate the day, something seems missing.

My theory was simple: I write the story of my past suffering, and now I can rest, coasting into heaven helping others find their way through the story God gave me.

But last night was rough. I wish I could say my troubles are past. The frailty of old age. Struggles in our family. Sometimes, the trauma-pain inside my brain is so loud I can’t experience the beauty around me, like a sunset or the Grand Canyon.

In the wee hours I put in my earbuds and listened to live worship at IHOPKC.

I awoke early this morning. My first thoughts: Today is publication day. I should feel good. Instead, I’m struggling. What’s wrong with me?

I told Gina, “I’m struggling; I don’t understand why.”

“How about we pray?” Gina kindly offered.

Gina prayed first.

I dumped my pain, some of it the same old pain I’m ashamed I’ve been struggling with for many years.

I agonized. I wept. Then, through the storm, the Holy Spirit whispered to me: “Yes, Jesus Shines Through. But in this life, the cross still stands. Suffering is not over. Only God decides our seasons of suffering and relief. Pray forward into what you want, not what you’re experiencing.”

The storm subsided. Jesus, who was asleep in my boat, woke up and calmed the storm.

At least for now…

On the bus ride to watch the sunrise, we quietly sang a couple of hymns together. Here are a few verses that touched me. (PS, don’t feel obligated to trudge through if it doesn’t touch you. Just scroll down):

Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross I spend,
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinner’s dying friend.

Here I’ll stay, forever viewing
Mercy streaming in his blood;
Precious drops, my soul bedewing,
Plead and claim my peace with God.

Truly blessed is this station,
Low before the cross to lie,
While I see divine compassion
Floating in his languid eye.

Here it is I find my heaven,
While upon the Lamb I gaze
Love I much, I’ve much forgiven,
I’m a miracle of grace.

 Then we sang this one:

Grace Greater than Our Sin

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
What can we do to wash it away?

As I gazed into the splendor of the Grand Canyon, here’s what I was thinking:

People who pursue their own grandiosity only harm themselves. Only God can be grandiose. Only one name rightly belongs above all other names: Jesus. We must pursue humility and let God decide who he raises up to the grand stages in front of the massive audiences, and who become the beautiful flowers that bloom and die in the wilderness where no human ever sees.

My mind is like the Grand Canyon. Hiding deep in some of those gorges and caves are the demons that try to haunt me. Only God can find and remove them.

Healing comes when health is greater than the sickness. Once disease overpowers health, we die. Although my mind (and probably my brain) are deeply damaged right now, I will choose healthy living, healthy thoughts, and healthy people. Light overcomes darkness. Love overcomes fear. But sometimes it’s a long, slow, painful process.

Today, I remind myself of the verse from the old hymn entitled, Is Not This the Land of Beulah

I can see far down the mountain,
Where I wandered weary years,
Often hindered in my journey,
By the ghosts of doubt and fears;
Broken vows and disappointments
Thickly scattered all the way;
But the spirit led unerring
to the land I hold today.

Jesus Shines Through, yet pain and death remain. The cross still stands, until we see Jesus, brighter than the sun. Then the way of the cross will only be the title of our former story.

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