Someone once said life is what happens when you’re making other plans. This is wisdom for me because I am a planner. I begin every day, every week, and every year with a detailed plan. But I am learning to hold my plans loosely so as not to miss out on life.
At the start of this year I had grand plans and… I achieved none of them, for my year was marked by three interruptions. Were they life-giving interruptions? I hope so. You be the judge.
Interruption #1: The Stuff Jesus Never Said book
This book did not exist in January; by April, I had a copy in my hand. Stuff Jesus Never Said came out of nowhere and took us by surprise.
It has long been my dream to convey the gospel in visual form. When I began the SJNS page three years ago, I wanted to put the best pictures in a book, but I couldn’t see how to get past the copyright issues. I asked the Mormons if I could use their pictures. (The Church of the Latter Day Saints takes art seriously and they have the best pictures of Jesus.) But they said no. Apparently they didn’t feel my intentions for their art work were a good match with their own.
For a long time we couldn’t see how to do it. Then in February this year we cracked the rights puzzle by using a mix of public domain art, Fiverr talent, and helpful archive curators. We also learned how to print full-color books in China and use order-fulfillment service providers in California.
The finished book is visually stunning, if I do say so myself, and the feedback from readers has been encouraging. Readers have been giving books away to people who normally never read anything remotely Christian. Others have leaving them on their coffee tables or work desks for others to find. This works because memes are disarming, and humor is an effective way of presenting the gospel message.
We sold a third of the first print run in the first six hours of the book’s release. But sales have since tapered off, possibly on account of the price. Full-color coffee table books with licensed images are costly to produce, and shipping costs are only cheap for US customers.
I have said that there would be no Kindle version, but I may change my mind. Although Stuff Jesus Never Said was always intended to be a gift book, the main thing is to get the message out there. Stay tuned for an announcement about ebook formats early next year.
Interruption #2: AD70 and the End of the World
Why am I writing a book about the year AD70? I honestly don’t know. I didn’t mean to. It just happened.
Here’s a little known fact: Escape to Reality was nearly an eschatology blog. But the timing wasn’t right. The gospel was the main thing; the end times could wait.
However, over the past two years I have been drawn back to Christ’s prophecies and parables of judgment. I am familiar with the standard futurist and preterist interpretations, but I wanted to examine the scriptures for myself. One thing led to another and I have just finished my biggest ever book. It has over 500 scriptures in the index and covers pretty much everything Jesus said about the last days.
I realize eschatology is a subject that divides opinion, and I have no wish to stir up debate. But I have read dozens of end times’ books and commentaries and found most of them miss grace by a hundred miles. It seems to me there is an opportunity to look at Christ’s words of judgment through the lens of the cross.
At present, the book is being read by a group of pastors and theologians (both preterist and futurist). So far the feedback has been most helpful in sharpening the message. I am confident that when the book is released next year it will bring clarity and freedom to those who have had a fearful view of the future or a gloomy view of the past.
Interruption #3: Patreon
I love writing about the gospel and I’d do it for free, but bills have to be paid. Income from royalties provides a fraction of our household income, so for the past seven years we have been living off other sources.
It has always been my hope to make a living from my work, and for a highly-trafficked site such as this that means selling advertising. But putting ads on E2R? Yecch! I just can’t do it. I don’t want anything to interfere or compete with the sweet words of the good news.
In May I was praying and money was on my mind. “Lord, how do we go forward?” Immediately one word leapt into my heart: Patreon.
I knew Patreon was a funding website for creative people making music videos and comics. As far as I knew it wasn’t for writers, and certainly not gospel writers. But on that night the word hit me like a hammer. Patreon! Patreon! Do it now!
My mind and my spirit were telling me contradictory things. My brain said, “This is not for me,” but my spirit heard, “Get on Patreon as fast as possible.”
Within ten days we launched and the results were astonishing, far better than I expected. It’s not just about the money (although that certainly helps). It’s the thrill of finding like-minded people willing to invest in this radical message of grace. It’s super-encouraging.
E2R patrons not only keep this site ad-free, they help fund the distribution of grace resources all around the world. They amplify this message. In return, they get access to a number of rewards including sneak peaks into draft chapters, insider access to forthcoming projects, advanced review copies, signed books, and exclusive invites to “Ask Paul Anything” sessions. (There’s one running right now.) Patrons are truly partners in this gospel venture.
Since it is Christmas, I want to thank you all for sharing the journey. If you commented on a post, thanks for joining the conversation. If you shared what I wrote with friends, thanks for passing it on.
And I particularly want to thank the following Patreon patrons for their generous support and partnership:
A and M Robertson, Michael Lipparelli, Rachmat Permana, Randy and Julee Armstrong, Charles and Sheilla van Wijk, Ben Dailey, Terry Maupin, Bill Fowler, Debra Hamilton, Amanda Henderson, Ian and Norma Anderson, Larry Eiss, Don Beeson, Klaus and Erika Degen, Mikael Jonsson, James Tuttle, Mary Anne Tango, Andrea Nagy, Jeremy Pelfrey, David Dunham, Terri Simon, Jerry Williams, John Ross, Melissa and Adam Kensell, James Young, Anne H Hoover, Tim Brasic, Anita Sheridan, Joe Merchant, Patti McPike, Kindall Nelson, Agnes Tan, Jean-Paul Parenteau, Rose Simmons, Yeo Wee Khin, Janelle Myers, Rose Hayden, Tung Lee, Erik Grangaard, Karen Moffett, Bill Schanuel, Kyle Defoe, Jason Kim, Justin Hopper, Michael and Kimberly Vizza, Ted Nelson, Sandra Osei-Gyamfi, Peter Hanson, Derrick Darden, Kundayi Bernard Mugabe, David Edwards, Anne T Ross, Henry HS Yeo, Christopher Johnson, Matt Bovett, Robin Waller, Brandon Petrowski, Real Paquette, Toshiko Johnson, Brian Campbell, Peter Barnett, Eveline Hotz Gamonez, Lyle Geck, Michael Gragg, Michelle Nonis, Pete Godwin, Damon Jackson, Paul Noble, Stephanie Hay, Frank Hillberg, Ricky L Cain, Kendall Oei, James Davis, Bruce Leane, Brian McLaughlin, Susie Dunlap, Julia Vockrodt, Robin Waller, John Reed, Paul De Sousa, Gary Greer, James Monteleone, Bill McDonald, Andy Manuel, Peggi Douglass, Lloyd D McCaskill, Van Ertel, Nick Atkins, Steven Kotsonis, Penny Hippey, Hazel Saquing, Kirsty Gerlach, Benny Sunjaya, Jeffrey, Rene Bouwer, Lester Blair, Nancy Reed, Shannon Carroll, Gord Penner, Andrew, Michael Pollard, Gilly Stott, Deirdre M Rogers, Berris-Dale Joseph, Mary Salisbury, Deborah Long, Josh King, Falxion, Pat Greene, Yuting Kita, Diane Schakola, Edward McCarthy, Denis Paquette, Mark Flint, Natalie, Adam Tanti, Joel Belcher, Elizabeth Brown, Liz Bailey, Melissa Keewee, Marie, Bryan Ryder, Rhea Cooper, Richard Lee, Norin Lumungking, Mark McElwee, Oscar Rios, Bank Akinmola, Elias Struik, Chad Huffman, and Cory Smith.
So that was my year. I had plans, but God’s plans were better. They always are. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for next year.