Friday, October 5, 2012

Why These Books Are Free!


                                       Why These Books Are Free!
            So why did I decide to put this book on-line for free?  Especially when, by doing so, I don’t get any income from it?  I want to take a moment to explain some of the conflicting feelings that I had when deciding whether to put this book out there for free or to seek publication so that it could get sold in bookstores.  And you’ll see why this issue is so important to me in a moment. 

            My husband jokingly called this book “the book that would not end.”  Because just when I would say, “I’m really done with it this time,” he would find me working on it again, pouring over some sentence that didn’t flow right or adding “just one more little thing.”  And then I found myself adding on the second book, Through the Furnace.  In fact, when I first called it “complete,” it was about a third of the length it is now.  I just kept finding more to add and more shuffling to do, working late at night or early in the morning or when I should have been doing housework.  I really, really wanted this book to be the best that I could make it, the most complete that it could be.  And so I labored at it for over five years.
            Even if I never put it out there for others, to me it was (at the very least) a legacy that I was leaving for my children.  I wanted to leave my story and the truths and lessons that I have learned to my boys, should anything happen to me.  And so I wanted to write it well for their sakes.  But I also wanted to write it well because I was doing it for God and for His glory.  I felt like He was calling me to write it, and so above all, I wanted Him to be glorified through it.  And so I couldn’t leave it sloppy or incomplete, and I couldn’t work on it half-heartedly.  I poured my all into it.
            As I began to get near to completing it (for the hundredth time), I submitted a proposal for it on a Christian website that shares it with Christian publishers to see if any would be interested in publishing it.  Well, time dragged on.  And for the whole time that it’s been on that website (one year), no one showed any interest.
            And so I prayed over it, Lord, what do You want me to do with it?  And I had a sense that I should try one more time on the website.  Then after that, I could try something else.  And as I write this now, there are about six weeks (out of six months) left for that third try to find a publisher.  But I still have not heard anything. 
            And I’ll admit, it was discouraging for a while.  I began to feel like I just wanted to give up on it.  Even those around me that I have given the book to (or made it available to) have not bothered to read it.  And that made me feel like maybe it wasn’t really worth it.  If no one was interested in publishing it and no one wanted to read it, what was I doing it for?         
            I was ready to just bury it and forget about it altogether.  In fact, I prayed one day, Lord, please give me some sort of encouragement to keep going with it, because I am ready to give up.  No one is interested.  And in the very next email that I got from my half-sister, Sara, she asked me how the book was coming along.  And she said that she wanted to read it.  And so I emailed it to her, and she actually started reading it.  And that was encouraging to me. 
            It’s funny what your emotions go through when you are writing a book.  When I first began writing it and looking for a publisher, it was “the greatest book ever written.”  Surely, publishers would be climbing over each other to publish it.  But then, I would read someone else’s book who learned some of the same lessons I learned or I would listen to a song on K-Love that very neatly and beautifully summed up what I took a whole book to say.  And I would think, “Who I am to think I can write a book or add anything to the already vast array of wonderful, inspiring things out there?  I am nothing but a joke.”    
            At one point, when I began to despair that no one was showing any interest, I remember unconsciously thinking, But God, You just have to get this book out there.  The world needs it.  It could do so much good.  And then, I thought of God’s Word.  And I realized that He had all He needed already out there.  His Word!  He doesn’t need more than that.  My book is not some great gift to mankind.  He already made available the only Book that really matters.  And so my book became “just a . . .”  It was just a book.  A book to be used by God and for God, should He choose to use it.  It was about His glory.  And if it was about His glory, He had the right to decide how it got used. 
            And so I had to ask myself what I would do with it if no one wanted to publish it.  And I asked God what He wanted me to do with it, since it was about His glory.  And the thought hit me to just give it away for free on the web. 
            But, Lord, I spent over five years writing it.  And I had hoped that I could get some sort of income from it to help Jason out for the years that he has worked to support our family.  And what about our financial stability in the future?   This could really help.  And if I just give it away, it would be like admitting that it’s not a real book.  It’s like admitting failure, like it has no value.  No one thought it was worth publishing and so I had no choice but to give it away.  And . . . (this is a big “and”) . . . I really wanted to be able to give away a part of the proceeds to an organization that I feel very strongly about.  One that I have always wanted to be able to donate a lot of money to, but never could.  How can I give them a part of the proceeds if I am giving away the book for free?
            I had a lot of reasons why giving it away for free didn’t make sense to me.  But the message to give it away stuck with me.  And it only got stronger.  I would hear things like, “What is God asking you to give up for Him?” and “We need to put others above ourselves.”  Even my own words came back to haunt me:  “Radical obedience . . . Just obey the next step and leave the results up to God.” 
            And I was even reminded of my “mission statement,”  Isaiah 61:1:  “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. . .”  And my thoughts were captivated by the phrase “the poor.”  There may be those who cannot afford a new book, especially in this economy when we all need to be much more careful and tight with our money.  And they are some of the people that I want to reach, and to reach them means making this book available to them for free.     
            And then, to top it all off, I would think about how much God gave us, especially when He gave us His Son to die for our sins.  He gave us salvation, and it cost us nothing.  But it cost Jesus His life.  And others have been asked to give up so much more than me for His name.  They have given up loved ones, financial and social status, their pride, their futures, and even their own lives.  And I was going to hold onto a book?  When it didn’t really cost me much but my time? 
            Well, message after message confirmed to me that I did not want to hoard this book, nor did I really care that much about getting money for it.  Yes, I would love to be able to make money off of it to help supplement Jason’s income, but God has not necessarily called me to make my living as an author.  I am just someone who has gone through a hard time and has a story to share about God’s love.  And so I just want it out there, to bring God glory and help to others.  And if I have to give it away to do that, then so be it.
            And I have become convinced to give it away for several other important reasons.  One of them is that I see and hear all over about people who are hurting, who have broken hearts and spirits, who feel lost and like life is pointless.  And I desperately want to help them in any way I can, because I have been touched deeply by God’s love and Truth and healing.  And so for me, to give this book to anyone who may be helped by it - who may find God’s love and Truth and healing through it - is an honor and a blessing.  And it’s my opportunity to “lay my life down for my neighbor” and to let my life be a “living sacrifice.”  And I think that’s pretty exciting.
            Another reason, to be honest, is that I am a little concerned about what might happen to my focus and my attitude if I got paid for this book.  As I have said in this book, I try to learn from other people’s lives.  And you can look at any number of people in Hollywood or in the news and see unpleasant changes in those who went from humble beginnings to too much money or fame.  There seems to be a tendency that when you get money, you start to hold onto it tightly, to hoard it, and to grow more enamored with the lifestyle that it can buy.  And I do not think that I am above this temptation.
            Honestly, I would rather be driven to desperate reliance and dependence on the Lord because of tight finances than to find out that I fell away from God because I didn’t “need” Him and His providence.  I would rather live with little while clinging to God than have much and live in confident independence.  “. . . then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord.”  (Deut. 6:11-12)    
            So in some ways, it seemed good to me to give these books away for free, to take a preemptive strike against falling in love with money.  This helps me to hold it more loosely, to remember that it is by God’s strength and for God’s glory if this book gets out there and makes a difference.  (Now, if God so chooses, though, for this book to get picked up by a publisher, I will accept it gratefully.  But I can’t plan for that, waiting for it happen.  And I know that even if I never get any income from it, God will provide for us.)  
            Anyway, I also thought about how many people are not interested in going into a Christian bookstore or venturing down the Christian aisle at a bookstore.  And yet, how many of them might need to hear the message of this book, of God’s redeeming love and His yearning for a relationship with each of us? 
            They might never go to the Christian bookstore, but maybe they would read one that they stumbled across on the web for free.  Maybe they are sitting on a train, bored as can be.  Maybe they went on vacation and forgot to bring a book with them.  Maybe they are sitting up late at night, unable to sleep.  Or maybe they cannot afford to buy new books.  And so maybe they decide to see if there is anything good to read on the web.  Just for the heck of it.  Maybe people will find this book that never would have found it in a bookstore.  And I pray for that.  Oh, that is my prayer!  That those who might never have been reached will be reached simply because this book was easily accessible and free. 
            That, to me, is a great trade-off for not getting it published.  And I am more than happy to store up my treasures in Heaven, foregoing financial income here on earth, if I feel that it will help one person draw closer to God.  Every life and soul is that valuable!  
            But even with all these reasons to “give it away,” there was one last stumbling block.  As I said, I desperately wanted to donate to a certain organization.  It has been on my heart for a while.  And every time I read their newsletter, I wish that I had more money so that I could help them out more.  But I can’t do enough.  We just don’t have the resources. 
            And I struggled with that before God.  I said, “But if it doesn’t get published, then I can’t give them a percentage of the proceeds, like I wanted to.”  And this, to me, was the last major roadblock.  I really, really wanted to give more to them.  But like a ray of light through the clouds, it hit me.  I might not be able to donate more, but I could ask others to consider if they would be willing to donate.  Maybe there will be a handful of people whose hearts are willing and sensitive to consider what this organization does and to decide to give something, anything. 
            You know, the Word says that we are all part of the body of Christ.  Some of us are the hands that do the manual work, some are the shoulders for others to lean on, some are the brains that teach, some are the feet that go out into the world and bring the Word and the help to others.  Well, for me, I would say that I am two things.  Hopefully, I am the heart, helping hurting people to find God’s love and forgiveness and healing.  But I would also have to say that I am the gluteus maximus.  That’s right, the rump of the body of Christ.  Because I get to sit here in my nice, comfy home while others, like this organization, go out into the world to do the difficult work.  They go into sad, heartbreaking conditions and try to shine a little bit of Christ’s love on the people. 
            But a rump doesn’t just sit there.  While it may not do its job in an obvious or flashy way, it does support the legs by giving them a secure place to branch off of and by channeling down muscles and energy and veins and arteries so that they can do their job.  I may not be the legs, the ones that go out into the world to do the hard work, slopping through the mud and snow and rain and heartache.  But I can be one who helps send some muscle and support their way so that they have what they need to do their job.  And so if I am going to be a rump, then I want to be the best rump possible. 
            And so I am going to pass their information on to you, the life-blood of these organizations.  Now, just to be clear, I do not get anything from them for saying this.  I do not work for them in any way.  In fact, they have no idea that I am doing this, and they don’t even know my name (except from the couple of pathetically small donations that we have made in the past).  This is nothing that you “have to do”.  It is between you and the Lord.  But I ask you to take moment to browse their website, to see if you believe in what they do.  And if you feel the tug at all, please donate whatever you feel led to donate. 
            This organization is called Samaritan’s Purse.  It is a relief organization that works all over the world to bring help, relief, and supplies to anyone in need, from those in areas that have been decimated by natural disaster to those who need clean drinking water.  I receive a Christmas catalog from them every year, showing us “gifts” that we could buy for those in need:  emergency medical care, shoes and clothing, care for orphans, help for a disabled child and wounded war heroes, fruit trees and chickens so that a family in an impoverished area could make a living, etc.
            They are also well-known for their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  This is when people all over the country fill up shoeboxes with toys and treats, and Samaritan’s Purse delivers them to children all over the world who might otherwise never receive a Christmas gift.  And that costs almost no more than eating one meal out.  What a great way to reach out and show Christ’s love.  Please, give their website a browse and see what God lays on your heart.  Here is their contact information: 

facebook.com/SamaritansPurse
twitter.com/SamaritansPurse
or you could call and request to be on their mailing list at 1-800-353-5957

            If you would rather do something a lot more long-term and intimate, you could also support a child through Compassion International (or World Vision).  This organization pairs up sponsors with children around the world that need medical, educational, financial, and spiritual care.  You have the opportunity to send letters back and forth and to watch your child grow up over the years through pictures and letters.  Sure, it costs a small chunk of money each month, but it is investing it in the life of a person and a family that do not have nearly as much as we do, including opportunities to hear the gospel.  Because not only does it provide for physical needs, but it gives the child a chance to grow up with a foundation built on God’s Word.  And that is so much more valuable than the money that it costs per month.  If you are interested, here is their information:

1-800-336-7676 (Compassion’s number)
worldvision.org

            Thank you so much for taking the time to read all of this.  May we all meet someday on the other side of eternity!  And until then, may all we do be for God’s kingdom and God’s glory!  Take Care and God Bless You All! 

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A place for your thoughts and questions. If you would like, think of this as a big, online, "book-club" meeting where you can all interact, answer each other's questions, and encourage each other. Please keep comments godly and uplifting because I will delete any that are mean or clearly ungodly. I want this to be an encouraging, safe place to interact. God bless!