Deb’s Books Blast/Deb’s Ministry Blog

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Deb’s Ministry Blog shares articles of interest to people in a small church, missions, or writing ministry. These are practical and encouraging articles that may be shared freely.

Again, you’ll receive occasional emails. You may unsubscribe at any time. Your privacy will be respected. Your name and address will not be given to anyone else for any other purpose.

Changes in Christian Publication in the Last Forty Years

I’ve been neglecting the writers who follow me for a while, so this one is for my writer friends. This year I’ve been writing for publication for forty years. Things have changed dramatically during that time. One advantage to getting older is understanding the history behind things. Today I want to talk about the changes I’ve witnessed in publication over the last 40 years.

I tend to think of the changes in decades. In the 1980’s I started writing articles for publication on my typewriter. Much of the time I aimed at one article a month. I found a publisher that liked my articles and quickly built a foundation of published articles and stories.

Christian fiction was very limited before 1980, but Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly changed everything. It astonished Christian editors with its unexpected overnight success. Suddenly Christian publishers were hungry for fiction, especially prairie romance. Some were putting out new titles every month. In the rush to publish, quality fiction was mixed with inferior fiction. Readers slowed their buying and some authors got stuck with manuscripts they’d been asked to write, but couldn’t sell. Great opportunities to publish opened up in the early 80’s, but dried up quickly halfway through the decade. Publishers turned to other genres like mysteries and fantasy and writers tried to follow the trends. Manuscripts started flooding the desks of editors.

Moving into the 90’s, most Christian publishers were refusing to consider manuscripts that didn’t come from agents. Now writers were not only concerned about good writing, but marketing their books to agents, who would then try to market them to editors.

I had written a book in the 80’s that I’d had professionally critiqued with favorable comments. I kept revising and submitting the book, without success. Those were the days of printed manuscripts and envelopes and stamps. With each submission I had the long waiting period of sending manuscripts one by one and waiting for replies. In the meantime, I wrote Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World. This kids’ book was easy to write because I was basically living the book on an adult level. Bob Jones University Press bought it and published it in 1994. I only had to worry about the writing of that book. Publishing and marketing were completely out of my hands. The book sold well, better than any of my other books have. It has now had been printed seven times.

By 2000 we had the internet and writing for publication was changing quickly. The tragedy on 9-11-2001, for reasons I don’t understand, really hit Christian publishers hard. Readers quit buying as much Christian fiction and publishers couldn’t take the risks they had taken before. It became harder even to find an agent who would consider your book. At the same time, it became far easier to self-publish. The stigma of self-publication began to fade as some well-known authors turned to self-publication in order to gain higher royalties. Soon writers’ success of a writer started depending less about their writing ability and more about how well they do social media and marketing. Kindle brought ebooks into the equation which dramatically changed the way books where published and marketed.

BJUP published Two Sides of Everything in 2004, and two of my other books in that decade, but I could see they were slowing down, too, in what they would accept, even of my books after they had already published four of them.

Today anyone can publish his own book. Many new authors publish, not because they are ready, but because they can. Vast numbers of writers write one book. Some of these are poorly written, but a few of their friends buy their book and they can say they’re  published authors.

Self-publication can work well, however, because it pays much higher royalties than traditional publishers and gives control over the book’s content completely to the author. With this method, authors don’t have to spend years trying to find agents for their books who then have to market it to publishers. They can publish their books whenever they’re ready. On the other hand, the author may lose the safety net of an editor who helps him hone his work until it becomes good enough to sell. Today’s writers aren’t finished with their job when they finish writing their books. Now they have to market their books. They need their own websites and blogs and need to keep up on several forms of social media so readers can find them.

In December of 2010 I first heard Mary Weaver’s story. (Now published as Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story.) I felt it was a story that needed to be told. I returned to the States in 2011, wrote a book proposal, and attended a writer’s conference to try to find an interested editor or agent. When I told Mary’s story to people in general I sensed huge interest, but every editor and agent refused to even consider it. They all agreed on two things. The story happened too long ago and Mary wasn’t a celebrity. Sensing God leading us forward, I knew it was time to consider self-publication. Now I’ve self-published Mary’s story, a companion Bible study book, and the Art Spotlight Mysteries, a series of cozy mysteries that are light-hearted, but deal with some deeper issues.

Today authors like me are more likely to refer to themselves as “indie authors” instead of self-published ones. Indie authors are independent authors who may hire help for proofreading, editing, and design but keep complete control of their book. I’ve joined the ranks of writers who need to continually grow in social media and marketing skills. Thankfully, with the huge increase in Christian indie authors, the help available has also increased. Many professionals who used to work for publishers now hire their services out to indie authors. These authors also band together in Facebook groups to learn from each other in the ever-changing world of indie publication. I belong to a group called “Christian Indie Authors” that has been a huge help to me.

Right now I’m working on a series of contemporary novels that deal with missionary ministry in New Zealand. As I edge close to retirement, I’m trying to establish a foundation for selling adult novels so that I can continue to write well into retirement.

Going Against the Flow: Straight Talk about Purity for Girls

In America 40% of all babies are born outside wedlock. In New Zealand it’s nearly 50%. Today childbearing women of all ages tend to have fluid relationships, sometimes moving in and out of relationships and dragging their kids with them. So for teenage girls in our churches, purity goes against the flow. Friends, teachers, and media all around them tell them virgins are losers and no one waits for marriage anymore.

In recent years I felt a definite nudge from the Lord to address the issue in our mission church. Maybe you’re thinking about holding some classes in your youth group or having a purity weekend. Today I’m going to share the main ideas I covered with my girls in four weekly sessions.

Knowing my Heart: Who am I in Christ?

Some of the first girls to lose their virginity are girls with very low self-esteem. Also, Christian girls who have already lost their virginity may feel that they have ruined God’s plan for their life. They may feel like trash. So I felt this was a good place to start talking about purity.

A close look at 2 Timothy 2:20-22 tells us that a wealthy house has all kinds of containers. Some, like a tin can, hold trash. Others, like a crystal goblet, are used for honored guests. All are useful, but some hold a position of honor. If we keep ourselves pure we can be one of God’s treasured vessels. The way we dress, the movies we watch, the things we thinks about, our relationship with guys, can determine what kind of vessel we are for God.

God made me special and has a special plan for my life (Psalm 139:13-16). God loves me so much he sent Jesus to die for my sins (Romans 5:8). He wants me to live a pure life. I need to build my relationship with Christ day by day. This will help me keep my purity and keep me from desperately grasping for any guy who will be my boyfriend.

Sharing my Heart: Different Ways to Date

When I was a teenager, Christian leaders basically said, “You should date a lot so you can figure out what kind of person you want to marry.” I was not really in a position to date because there weren’t many Christian guys in my circles. Even in Bible college a lot of the guys all decided to date a few popular girls. If you never dated you felt like a real loser.

Today Christian young people and singles have more choices. We talked about marriages in the Bible (Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, common biblical marriage patterns). Then we talked about contemporary dating: common dating, Christian dating, arranged marriages, courtship, and making up your dating model.

Then we talked about some good principles with whatever model you choose.

  • Build your relationship with Christ first.
  • Bring wise counsellors into your relationship.
  • Don’t start too young or get too serious or too physical too fast.
  • Start by becoming good friends. Don’t confuse love with hormones.

Guarding My Heart: Tips to Protecting Your Purity

Sometimes Christian teens want to remain pure, but it seems nearly impossible. We began with some of the lies Satan tells:

  • God is keeping something good from you. (Really he’s protecting us from hurting our relationship with him, getting STD’s, having our hearts broken from someone who isn’t committed to us, from pregnancy and abortion.)
  • Virgins are losers who can’t get a guy to like them.
  • As long as you don’t “go all the way” you can do whatever you want before marriage.
  • Saving yourself for marriage worked long ago, but no one does it today.
  • Today it’s impossible to save yourself for marriage.

While it can be hard to keep yourself pure, these tips make it much easier.

  • Make a promise to God to keep yourself pure and live for him.
  • Replace wrong thinking with right thinking. Keep your mind pure.
  • Dress modestly.
  • In a relationship with a guy, stay public, stay vertical, decide how far you will go in advance. (This comes from And the Bride Wore White by Dannah Gresh.)
  • Build your relationship with Christ.
  • Make yourself accountable to someone you trust.

Giving My Heart Away: Looking Ahead

Love is blind. When we’re in love, we feel like we are thinking clearly. The media says: Follow your heart. Sounds good, but what this usually means is: Follow your hormones. Rely on your emotions. Gary Chapman calls this period the “in-love obsession” and says it lasts about two years.

Young girls need to look ahead and think about what they really want in the one they want to marry. Some things, like being athletic or good looking, may be whims or preferences. But they need to think about the things that are most important to them. They should avoid dating anyone who doesn’t have these things. Once they start dating and that guy makes them feel special, it will be hard to think objectively about him. We’ll talk about the qualities of a guy who will be a loving spiritual leader.

I found my girls eager to talk about these things and agreeable to what I said. But I sense they need to talk about these things, with a Christian teacher as well as Christian peers. I believe it helps them to voice the desire and necessity for purity with others who will support them in that decision. It’s not easy to go against the flow every day. We need to challenge unbelievers and support Christian teens. Do the guys need this too? Certainly, but this time I’m working with girls.

Resources:

Dannah Gresh’s book

Free printable Vows of Purity for guys and girls

Purity jewelry

My Art Spotlight Mysteries shows a fictional example of a couple dating carefully, with an eye on purity. There are some careful kisses before marriage and a mention of “thinking like a married man” that points to the marriage being consummated. Purity, different methods of dating, and relationships are clearly mentioned in the second and third book. In book one they just get to know each other.

 

 

 

Instant winner!

Being a subscriber to Deb’s Book Blast automatically qualifies you to be in the draw to win the Kindle version of one of these books with a cross cultural theme.

Know You More is a multi-racial Christian romance by Jan Thompson.

3D Gospel is non-fiction and discusses various cultures and their emphasis on guilt, shame, or fear by Jayson Georges.

End of the Spear is the true story of a Steve Saint whose father was martyred by Auca Indians. Many years later Steve and his family go back to live with the tribe after many have been converted.

I’ll announce the winner of the draw at the end of this Book Blast.

Take a quick glance at my books and you’ll notice a strong cross cultural theme.

  • Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World, my first published book, is a pre-teen book about Amy, an American girl who goes to live in Taiwan with her missionary parents.
  • Two Sides to Everything is a pre-teen book about Josh, an American city boy who goes to live with his relatives in rural New Zealand.
  • Broken Windows, a cozy mystery about Jordan, shows his adjustment to adult life in the US after growing up as a missionary’s kid in Taiwan. (See great deals below for more than 50% off on the box set.)
  • Déjà Who? continues Jordan’s story as he and his girlfriend work with international students in the US. (See great deals below.)
  • I Scream shines the spotlight on child prodigy Destiny, who has an American dad and a Chinese mom. Jordan communicates with her mom in Chinese. (See great deals below.)

Why do I make cross cultural issues such a strong theme in my writing?

Cross cultural ministry is who I am and what I know.

I grew up in the home of Ray Allen, a pastor of small churches in Colorado. I married a guy who was headed for Taiwan as a missionary. Art and I and our two daughters spent 16 years living and ministering in central Taiwan. The Lord then led us to New Zealand where Art has been the missionary pastor of a small church for 21 years.

New Zealand has a Western culture that is similar in many ways to culture in the US. After getting to know the New Zealand culture pretty well, God began to bring people from around the world to us. For years we had two South African families, one black and one white. At the same time many Asians came to our city and church. Filipinos came to work on dairy farms. Southern Institute of Technology drew many Indonesians. Koreans came for work and education.

Since we had lived in the US, Taiwan, and New Zealand for many years, we helped some of these Asians bridge the gap between an Asian and a Western culture. We’ve needed to affirm different ways of doing dishes in the church kitchen. We had to address muddy footprints on the seat of the ladies’ toilets. We’ve explained the differences in values between Asian cultures which prize education very highly and the New Zealand culture which values a do-it-yourself, sports and physical labor mentality. All cultural issues.

Building cross cultural relationships is an important part to reaching the world with the gospel and including different cultures in ministry.

On this earth we will never completely shed our prejudices and biases toward other cultures, but we must continue to work toward understanding if we are going to minister effectively. And ministry … isn’t that what the Christian life is all about? Serving Christ as we serve others should be our highest goal. So it seems to me that ministry ought to be a common theme in Christian fiction. You will find a ministry thread through every book I write.

Great Deals on Box Sets of Christian Fiction

Now that I’ve got your mouth watering for Christian fiction, here’s a great buy on 30 different Christian fiction box sets for $4.99 or less. You’ll find my Art Spotlight Mysteries among them. This promotion only lasts from November 3-9 so don’t miss out. These are great deals and a great way to find a new author to love. In my case, my Kindle box set is over 50% off the cost of buying the ebooks separately.

Now for the free drawing.

I have randomly picked a winner from my subscribers list to receive the Kindle version of a book with a cross cultural theme.

And the winner is … R. Y. She is an English teacher in the Middle East. She found my website while searching for ESL Bible lessons. I wrote these lessons long ago during our ministry in Taiwan. Now these lessons, written for people who use English as a second language, are used to share the gospel in many countries around the world.

She has chosen 3D Gospel.

 

 

Making a Positive Impact on Others


Did you ever leave church or a social gathering more discouraged than when you came? Maybe the majority of your conversations were largely negative. Sometimes our conversations just get in a negative rut and it’s hard to reverse and go in a better direction.

What can you do? Everyone has problems and needs a listening ear. You want to show concern, even when you can’t solve their problems. There’s a time to weep with those who weep. But we also want to make most of our conversations uplifting.

Today’s world is a desert thirsty for encouragement. If you are in ministry you have a constant need to connect with people, sometimes the same one over and over. We often talk about the weather, which may not be pleasant at the time, or ask how the person is, which may not be pleasant either. Then how can we steer the conversation in a positive direction?

Negative Subjects

The biggest enemy of positive conversation is negative subjects. Yes, we need to take a stand against the evils of the world, but sometimes these negative subjects dominate our conversations. It’s hard to have uplifting conversation about abortion, gun control, political leaders we don’t like, immorality in the world today, unemployment, or high prices. We may need to talk about these things sometimes, but we need to balance them with the positive aspects of life if we want to encourage ourselves and others.

Preparing Yourself for Positive Impact

Matthew 15:18 says, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart.” (NKJV) So if I have a positive heart, I will say positive words that will encourage everyone around me. What positive things can I think and talk about to balance out all the negatives of life? Here are some ideas:

1. What new thing can I thank God for today?

2. What small success can I celebrate in my life or the lives of others?

3. What everyday thing have I been overlooking that could bring me joy?

4. Have I found something in a book or blog recently that has encouraged me?

5. What nice things have other people done for me recently?

6. What advantages do I have that make my life easier than life 30 years ago?

7. Who could I call that I haven’t talked to for a while?

8. Was I expecting some bad thing to happen that turned out better than I thought?

9. What’s one nice memory I haven’t thought about for a while?

10. What ordinary people do I have in my life who bring me joy every day?

As we think about answers to these questions this week, we can become positive people who are ready to make a positive impact on a negative world.

 

God’s Invisible Work

Are you feeling discouraged in your ministry today? Maybe you’ve been working hard, but you see few results for your labor. You’ve analysed your ministry to see if you could makes changes to be more effective, yet you don’t feel the Lord’s leading you to make changes. You’ve poured yourself into the lives of people who are making bad choices. It looks like you are accomplishing very little. You’re trying to be faithful, but if what you’re doing isn’t working, why not quit?

Wouldn’t you like God to speak to you today and give you words of comfort? He has. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10 NKJV)

God sees your work. If you are following his leading and serving him to the best of your ability out of a heart of love, he is pleased, even if you can’t feel it. God often works beneath the surface.  He may be doing his greatest work at a time when it looks like nothing is happening.

A friend recently told me, “Satan is really working. I’ve told all these friends about Jesus and they just aren’t responding.” Within days of hearing that I read these verses in my devotions. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8, NKJV)

Most people don’t respond to the gospel the first time they hear it. Many times it takes years of exposure to the gospel before they are ready to believe. Over the years they meet various Christians who show an attractive picture of who Christ is and plant gospel seeds. The unbelievers remember bits and pieces of things they hear, but mostly they resist the message.  All these things seem to do no good. Then one day someone witnesses to them and “suddenly” they get it. They’re ready to be saved. But actually the decision wasn’t sudden. All the words by Christians that they seemingly ignored were actually helping to prepare them for the sudden decision.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NKJV)

God hasn’t forgotten your work. He is working in hearts. Your labor is not in vain. May you experience his joy in your ministry today.