Sunday, February 06, 2005

Beyond Expectations

When it comes to my writing, I work hard at it, turn it into the editor and work on rewrites (if needed) then rejoice when it comes out in print. It could be a new book or a magazine article. In general, I ask God to use my entire writing and editing life but I don’t put a lot of thought into the details about how that will happen.

I certainly have dreams and aspirations as a writer for my work. I’ve found it unproductive and at times disappointing when I place a lot of personal attention on such issues. It’s pretty dismal to learn that one of your books with high hopes is going out of print. Or maybe you receive a quarterly or semi-annual or annual royalty statement and learn it’s sold less than ten copies during that time period. Yes, it happens and it has happened to me.  I write, work hard on the words, then commit the results into God’s capable hands.

Some days God surprises us with what has happened. Because of my body of work, each book has been written with a different set of parameters. For example on some books, my name doesn’t appear on the cover or the title page. It’s only on the copyright page. I wrote these books early on and in general as a work-made-for-hire, which means no additional earnings beyond the single paycheck.  Some writers dislike this type of work but I’ve found it a productive way to make a living.  This type of work is common if you work with book packagers. (Follow this link if you don’t know this term as a writer.)

Last week, I received a short email about one of my early books, Lighthouse Psalms. Long out of print, I wrote these books over a brief period seven years ago.  I wrote Lighthouse Psalms and Love Psalms which included short devotionals and verses from the Psalms. The only place my name appears is on the title page and I wrote them as work-made-for-hire, received a few author copies and moved on to my next writing project. From discussions with the book packager and others, I know these books sold at least 60,000 copies (or bestselling numbers). I’m pleased for the ministry of these books but I hadn’t thought about these beautiful books in some time—until last week.

I received an email written with some desperation searching for a copy of the book…for a special situation of an illness. She wrote, “This book has brought comfort to him over the last few months as I read to him from it and other members of his family do as well. We then go to our Bibles and will look up the chapter in Psalms or particular passages and read the entire chapter. I cannot tell you the comfort that it brings to him when I read it.” The email continued to explain that she couldn’t locate the book but wanted to get a couple of copies.  I don’t have many copies of these books but I dug out what I had to send to this reader.

I was stunned. Something that I wrote eight years ago continued to have such an impact on someone’s life. In some ways I shouldn’t be surprised at God’s working. The Apostle Paul laid it out to the church at Ephesus in his prayer, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20).

I have a vivid imagination and can ask God for some huge things. This response to my writing was definitely beyond any of my expectations.

4 Comment:

At 8:11 AM, Blogger violet Left a note...

Terry, this is beautiful! I think one of the things that drew and continues to draw me to writing is the amazing possibility that the Holy spirit can inhabit words on a page. I must say in my life, this is how God has spoken to me most powerfully - through words that someone far away and perhaps long ago, wrote (in books like 'A Man Called Peter' by Catherine Marshall, and 'Through Gates of Splendour' and 'Under the Shadow of the Almighty' by Elisabeth Elliot - these from my youth).

What a high honor - to know that God has used you in this powerful way. And I'm sure, Terry, this story you relate is only a faint shadow of the real impact your work has had. Your post today inspires me to continue to be faithful in my insignificant corner.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Katy Left a note...

What you've described, Terry, is the most wonderful outcome any of us can hope to achieve with out writing.

I'm glad Violet posted here, because just yesterday she ministered into my life through some words she'd written some time ago. She read my blog (www.fallible.com) about my mother's rapidly declining health, and posted on her blog a poem she'd written for her mother--dedicated to me and my mom. It made me weep, it touched me so much.

Thank you both for reminding me--again--how can can use us to reach into the hearts of the ones He loves. It's a privilege and an honor to be so used!

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Katy Left a note...

Wow! I committed several typos, for which I apologize!

At 1:45 AM, Blogger relevantgirl Left a note...


Great point! A little bit ago, I was sitting in the living room of a French couple who poured out their hearts to my husband and I. I realized when I got home that I had written an article about their struggle. The article was purchased by a magazine, but for some reason or another, it has not yet been published. I sent them the article, and VOILA! They were (by God's grace) deeply ministered to. I think God had me write it just for them.


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