Monday, March 28, 2011

And the winner is...

One of the great things about the world of technology is that a person can walk through a project like this and not feel alone.  It has been quite overwhelming actually.  I have felt so supported and encouraged in this endeavor.  I wonder how I got so lucky to have such great friends. 

To everyone who joined me in prayer over this last week – thank-you!  Your advice, perspective and input are invaluable. 

Soooo… drum roll please…  

I made a decision on Friday to follow through with Bridge Logos...the contract I already had in hand.  Here is my reasoning:

  1. The BL deal was a good deal when I signed it in June, and the delay didn't change that.  If anything, my interactions with them have been much more positive since their re-organization, and they seem anxious to re-establish themselves as a "reliable" publisher. 
  2. I will be a bigger deal at BL than I ever would have been at Zondervan.  At BL, I am the proverbial "bigger fish in smaller pond." I had already approached Zondervan (through my sister) a year ago and they weren't interested then. I wasn't sure how much more interest my new contact might be able to generate than when my sister tried. 
  3. When I talked to my Zondervan contact on Friday AM, she said that she never actually spoke to anyone there but did forward my proposal.  However, they are notoriously looonnnngggg in their approval processes. So, when I explained the situation to her - even she encouraged me to take the offer in hand.
  4. The good news about Zondervan is that they are releasing a book in the early summer where Woodcrest is featured.  To follow that up with another book by the pastor of WC in the Fall (which is when BL is planning to release it), makes a lot of sense from a PR stand-point.  I can leverage their publicity efforts on the first book without having to wait for them to get interested in mine.
  5. I couldn't get over the hump (emotionally) to self-publish. I didn't want to have to raise funds for the inventory nor do the "pushing" required to get the book noticed.  BL has committed a marketing person to get shelf space in Christian book stores and help coordinate speaking arrangements - and that just feels so much better than self-promotion. 
With all that in favor of the BL option, I sent them my most up-to-date manuscript on Friday - and now here we go (again)!

Lord lead on!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Now what?

At this time last week, I had nothing new to share about my manuscript.  All that changed on Friday.

For those new to the blog, I finished a manuscript for a book two summers ago entitled, unsettled… life beyond the yellow ragged couch.   It took me about a year to find a publisher willing to print the book.  I sent the manuscript off to the publisher in September of 2010 eager to begin the process.  This past January that same publisher wrote me back and said that the book was now on the back burner.  Blah, blah, blah, “…economy…” Blah, blah, blah, “organizational re-structuring…”  “Mr. Van Waarde, you probably need to find another publisher.”

That was not the news I wanted to hear, but whatya gonna do?  I threw myself a pity party (literally).  After I had enough fun feeling sufficiently sorry for myself, I started looking elsewhere.  Along the way, a good friend told me she had connections with a prominent Christian publisher (Zondervan) and that she was willing to share the manuscript with her connection.  I think this may be happening this week.

Additionally, I have been re-exploring self-publishing.  With Kindle, iPad, and all the other electronic reading platforms available, self-publishing has some attractive opportunities that weren’t available even three years ago.  However, that would mean a lot of self-promotion – which I hate.  But, if that’s what has to be done, I think there are enough smart people around me to help me figure it out.


While I have been pondering all these things, I get an e-mail out of the blue from my original publisher which says, “Hey, Piet.  We love your manuscript.  Send us your latest edits.  We’re ready to get started.”  What?!  Wait a minute!  I thought this wasn’t going to happen?  I e-mailed them back to make sure they had the right guy.  They did.  And, they again reiterated that they really are anxious to get going.


Today I feel in quite the quandary.  Now what?  It would seem I have three legitimate and reasonable options:

  1. Go with my original publisher and move forward with a group of people that seem anxious to publish my manuscript.  I have a good contract, and it is conceivable that the book might be released before the end of the year.  This is a deal “in hand”.  Additionally, it isn’t like there are others banging the door down to do this.

  1. Wait and see what happens with the mainstream publisher.  There are no guarantees.  But, if I can get on with these folks, there is a lot more support.  Given Willow Creek’s and NACR’s connections to Zondervan, there seem to be a lot of valued-added possibilities.  But, again, they may not like it or take it and while I am waiting, my present publisher could decide to move on to someone else.  Then, I’d be stuck with nothing.

  1. I could self-publish.  BUT….  Self-publishing requires a pretty substantial capital investment up front because I would have to do all the printing myself.  In addition, this would require engaging an editor, investors and PR folk.  I’d also have to do a lot of “pushing” myself to get the message out there.  I’m not unwilling to try, but I did the self-publishing route the last time, and I have several cases of books in my basement to show for it.

So, I thought I’d throw the options out there and see if my very smart friends have some counsel to share on the subject.  No such thing as bad advice on this one.  I’m just curious what you think.  And, if nothing specific comes to mind, would you consider joining me in prayer?  Thank-you!

And, I’ll keep you up to date!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

People that make life richer…

I was at lunch yesterday being introduced to a friend of a friend.  In this introduction, there were many nice things said about me and the work of our church in the community.  These are always fun to hear.  But truthfully, I am never really sure how to react to that; because I know that the “success” I have known (both as a person and a pastor) is a product of so many other people.  I get a lot more credit than I deserve. 

The good news is that the discomfort led me to an idea about this week’s blog post.  I want to use this note to affirm and express appreciation publicly for four people who have made ongoing and sacrificial investments in me and the church I get to lead.  Without their contribution, I would not be the man I am today nor would Woodcrest be the church it is today.

DR. ROD CASEY – Rod joined the Woodcrest staff in January of 1995.  He came with a passion for seeing the local church be effective, but he also unashamedly said, “I am here to serve you.” It is one thing to say that, but it is another thing to live it.  He has.  It doesn’t really matter what he is asked to do, he always does it with heart and skill.  Over the course of time, he has worked with small groups.  He counseled the hurting.  He helped with singles.  He wrote leadership development curriculum.  He conducted weddings and funerals.  He preached great sermons.  But more than anything else, he was and still is a confidante and counselor to me.

Currently, his greatest contribution to our ministry is that he is our resident theologian.  Believe it or not, every church needs a great theologian, because the church is not just a business.  It is not just a not-for-profit organization.  It is not just an educational institution.  It is a faith community – and everything we do has theological implications (whether or not we realize it).  Rod has kept our theological lens clear.  He has helped steer this work in a way that honors Christ not just in our mission and vision, but in how we think and act.  What a gift he has been to me and us (and all of mid-Missouri).

CHRIS MITCHELL – For most people who know and love Chris, it is because of his amazing talent as a musician.  He is all that.  He was classically trained. He has toured with a Christian band.  He makes most songs sound better on our stage than they sound on the recordings by the original artist.  What many people may not know about Chris is that he is an extremely gifted and caring leader.  He leads a large staff of musicians and technical personnel (both paid and volunteer).  He is always thinking about the next grand production whether it is a CD project, an Easter weekend, or a new video venue.

In this last season, he also served as the staff liaison for the construction of our new youth facility.  Think about this for a moment.  How many pastor-types do you know that can help manage a two million dollar construction project and sound like Bono singing U2 all in the same week?  Ex-act-l-y!

Beyond all the great work Chris produces, I am most grateful for his heart for people, which he hasn’t kept from me.  He has loved me in some very tender places of my life.  Though I serve as his “boss”, we actually live and serve together more like co-laborers and brothers in Christ!  I am a blessed man!

BETH BRAMSTEDT – Beth is our senior staff person.  By that I mean she has served at Woodcrest longer than anyone else.  She started working part-time at the church while going to MU while pursuing a journalism degree.  Now she serves as our Administrative Pastor.  For Beth, this isn’t just her title.  This is who she is.  She is a pastor by calling and an administrator by passion.  In our context, that means that she (and her very capable team) works hard to remove any/every structural barrier that might impede our capacity to sustain effective ministry.  Specifically, she oversees our marketing, budgeting process, facilities, and volunteer services.

In my world, what Beth helps me figure out is sequencing.  You can have great ideas and great people passionate about doing great things.  But, when the timing gets off or people don’t understand how one part of the organization affects actions in other parts of the organization, things get very confusing very quickly.  People get upset.  Finger-pointing becomes common place.  Soon, everything becomes political.  Few people will ever really appreciate the value of Beth’s instinctive capacity to know who, what, and where things fit at what time – and how our long-running effectiveness has so much to do with her diligence on this front.  Thank you, Lord, for Beth!

KAREN LAUGHTER – Karen serves as the pastor in our family life ministries.  For those from birth through college age, Karen stands watch and gives/leads (with unrelenting passion) both kids and parents alike.  Karen is the consummate learner.  If she doesn’t know it, she learns it.  She is tireless worker.  If a person needs extra time or a lesson needs some extra attention, Karen willing gives it.  She is quick to admit her short-comings and regularly under-sells her part because she is so busy giving credit to everyone else.

More than most people I know, Karen is a lover of souls.  She wouldn’t think twice about scooping up a toddler in her arms, patiently listening to a broken-hearted 13 year-old girl, or call out the immature antics of an 18 year-old boy twice her size.  She lives for this.

How did I get this lucky?

I have seen my share of arrogant leader-types, who think it is all about them.  I am sure I have my moments too.  But, sometimes the talent and spirit of the people around you is too impressive to ignore. I am a blessed man.  Because of the people I have been privileged to serve alongside, I am a better man.  If I can add value to others as they have added value to me, then I will have lived a good life.  But, they sure did set the bar pretty high. 

Guess I can’t retire anytime soon…

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What I would rather not admit….

Over the last few weeks at Woodcrest, we have worked through the subject of hurt; the hurt we carry and the hurt we cause. We spent a lot of time talking about forgiveness.  We defined it.  We illustrated what happens when we don’t extend it as well as the mess we can create.  We talked about how to ask for it and why it matters so much.

When all was said and done, it turned out to be a rather emotional series.  My inbox has been full.  I have had more Facebook messages in the last two weeks than I have had in a long time.  My appointment calendar is packed, as well.  The point is that people have had a lot of questions and a lot of specific concerns that reminded me of something I have been thinking about for some time as it relates to my own relational journey.

I want to share something more on the personal side.  I feel more than a bit vulnerable putting this out there, because it can be so easily misunderstood.  But, in the course of my conversations over the last few weeks, I realize that what I myself have been addressing may not be mine alone to bear.

Once a quarter, I take a three day break in order to get away and spend some time in silence and solitude in order to pay closer attention to what is happening in my soul.  Sometimes it is not easy to figure out what is really going on “down there.”  This has been very fruitful for me.  A question I have been pondering for the last year or so is about love. “Why do I love people?”  I have tried to honestly evaluate my core motivations on this all important subject – especially for people in ministry.

What is my motivation for love?

My initial thoughts were as follows.  On one level I thought of love as a decision one makes in response to Christ’s command.  If we are to be about anything as Christ followers it is love.  We are commanded to love God and people.  It is a step of obedience.  In fact, Jesus said it was (and is) the most important thing.

Beyond that, I love because I am drawn to certain kinds of people.  I find them attractive spiritually, emotionally, and/or physically.  We have things in common.  We can joke and laugh together.  I like this kind of love.  It is easy, and it is fun.

So there is a love prompted by duty, and a love prompted by pleasure.  

All this made sense to me except for the fact that I often found myself disappointed by love.  This didn’t make sense to me.  Because, if I tried to do this well (and it was the most important thing), why wasn’t it more satisfying?

What I have come to understand and see about myself is that my practice of love is much less mature than I would like to believe.  What I have discovered is that, more often than not, my love isn’t really about God or other people at all.  It is actually about me and what I hope to get out of it.  I love God because of the blessings I hope that He will bring me.  I love people so that they will be nice to me, like me, and think I am a good guy.  I know this because if God doesn’t “love me back” in the ways I think I deserve, then I am disappointed and mad.  If other people don’t reciprocate my love in the way I hope, I am disappointed there as well.  One of the biggest heart aches of my life is that my expectations are rarely (if ever) met.

That sucks! 

Nor is it really love!

I don’t want to stay here.  I want to learn increasingly about real love.  I haven’t figured all this out yet, but one of the things that is increasingly making sense to me is that when I try to manage my own love needs through how I love God and others, I am regularly disappointed.  Will God love me in the ways I expect? Will people reciprocate my love in the ways I think I need?  


So, what I have been trying to do is find times to let God love me in the ways He prefers by just being more available to Him in seasons of silence and solitude.  To not be demanding.  To not set unrealistic expectations.  Just let Him love me.  He does so generously.  Over time, that has begun to lower my expectations about what people give me – because I am no longer as needy.  I don’t “need” them to do certain things in certain ways for me to feel like they have responded with a “reasonable” level of return love.  I seem freer to love in a way that is actually more unconditional.  Dare I say that?  Conversely, I think I am also freer to ask for what is reasonable without being manipulative and codependent.

Do, I always get that right?  No.  Do I still have to manage expectations?  Yes!  However, slowly but surely I see things shifting.
I share all this because when we are talking about the relational hurts of life, we can’t just think in terms of improving our capacity at managing the disappointment, frustrations and debilitating moments of relational break-down.  In addition, we need to ask the more penetrating question of “Why does all this matter to me so much in the first place?” 

If my candor helps prompt that kind of reflection, it will have been a worthwhile risk.