Thursday, March 26, 2015

#FOTU

I had a funny email interaction the other day with a friend. I had emailed wondering if she would be willing to help design the cover of my new book. Her response was, "Of course...but I didn't even know you were writing!" I guess I have not done that great of a job of making people aware of the project I have been working on. With that said, I am now at the point where I feel it is appropriate to publicly talk about it more and attempt to gain some energy and excitement for the book.

I have been working on the book since June 2014 - the idea came to me while running (big surprise) and after a few runs I kept coming back to the conclusion that there was something there. I spent most of the summer doing research. The research took a lot of time - I was consistently finding new sources to dig into, and burning through highlighters as I frantically gathered the information I wanted to use. During preseason for soccer, I would spend the five hours in between practices doing all my research. By November, I was finally at a place where I had the research done, and had the time and energy to dedicate a few hours each day to writing. So, for a solid six weeks, I spent a few hours every day with headphones plugged in as I typed away. Six weeks later, I was left with a very rough first draft of the 50,000+ word manuscript. For the past three and a half months or so, I have been diligently editing the book, meticulously combing through it trying to polish it up. I am beyond grateful for a number of friends who have also been sifting through the pages helping me make the manuscript even better. One friend focused solely on punctuation. One ensured my tenses were consistent and appropriate. Another has been managing my grammar. I had one friend sign up as my 'theological editor' to be another opinion in making sure my interpretation of Scripture is accurate. This has by no means been an individual effort, and I am grateful for all who have played a role in helping me reach this point.

A week and a half ago, I signed a self-publishing contract with Westbow Press - the same company Running Through Life is currently published through. I have found myself filled with a new sense of energy as I am taking obvious steps leading me toward publication. There is no definitive publication date set in stone, though I have personally set the goal of having a book in hand by October 2015. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are getting closer each day.

But Tommy...what is the book actually about?
The book is going to be titled, Footprints of the Unnamed.
Within the book I want to retrace the footprints left behind by twenty different characters found within the four gospels. The one connection all twenty characters have in common is the fact their names are never mentioned. Some come and go in just a few verses. They are sometimes a side show, a mere passerby in a larger story that is being told. However, I fully believe the Holy Spirit found it worthwhile to prompt the gospel authors to include their stories for eternity, because they have something to offer us. If the Holy Spirit didn't pass them by, I don't want to either.

Throughout this journey I have been on with these twenty characters I have found myself being filled with encouragement. I may never write a book that gets as many readers as a Max Lucado book. I may never deliver a speech that falls on as many ears as a Francis Chan sermon. But, I am not here drifting through life purposeless. I am not here to take someone else's oxygen. I have been given a purpose; a reason for existing. If the Holy Spirit is going to enable these nameless characters to leave a footprint, He can certainly do the same for me. I have been challenged in thinking about the legacy I am leaving behind.

Additionally, I have found myself continually falling more in love with Jesus as I study these individuals. I have been amazed at how many of them are mirrors of the characteristics we find in Jesus. After writing the tenth or so chapter I was humbled as I came to an obvious yet commonly forgotten message of Scripture... it all points to Jesus, something I hope to communicate through the pages of the book.

Over the next six months or so I hope to generate more buzz and energy about the book. I don't care if I don't make any money off the project. But, I am proud of what we have compiled and I truly believe the words in the book will have an impact on the reader. Though I'm not the biggest fan of social media, I am slowly trying to develop the hashtag #FOTU to help spur some excitement. Help me out and help spread the word as you see some tweets and facebook posts about the book's status. Keep an eye on the blog as I will post things here and there about the progress of the book.

Thanks for checking in!
Tommy

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Not too many people get to say that their little sister is one of their biggest heroes. I'm lucky. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Old song, new twist

I can almost guarantee I will get a song stuck in your head. All I have to do is type the first four words and many will instantly start to know the tune and finish the phrase, “Jesus loves me this…” 

Having spent even a small amount of time around a Vacation Bible School, or Sunday School for little kids, you no doubt encountered that song and are able to finish it, “…this I know, for the Bible tells me so...” Over the past few days this song has been stuck in my head following an assignment I gave my seventh grade Bible class. I don’t want to go against the theology of the song, but I want to challenge you to take a different perspective on the song and see if it can impact the way in which you live your life.
I have been going through Jesus’ final days on earth with my students as Easter approaches. I wanted to give them a thorough account of all the events that took place ultimately leading up to Jesus being crucified and three days later his resurrection. One night I assigned the students homework and had them answer questions that caused them to reflect on the information presented in class that day, specifically regarding the physical pain Jesus suffered prior to, and on the cross. I didn’t catch it at first, but was soon realizing how many answers included phrases such as, “I feel more love toward Jesus because of what he did for me” or “Jesus loves me that much to go through all the pain” and a few stated, “Jesus did that just for me
After reading a number of answers, the children’s song popped into my head, “Jesus loves me this I know…” Again, I do not find anything theologically wrong with the song, nor do I think it is incorrect to remind ourselves of the love Jesus has for us.

But, what if we took time to focus on Jesus’ love for others, would it change the way we view and treat them? What if instead of singing about how Jesus loves me we insert the name of someone we know? (Names made up and do not reflect any specific people I know) How does our attitude change when we start to sing, “Jesus loves Matt, this I know…” What if we were to create a list of names of people we struggle to get along with. Nobody is perfect and there are more than likely at least a few people who make us cringe every time their name is brought up in conversation. There are those who we avoid. Those we don’t want to love. Take a moment and insert their name into the song, or one of the answers given by my students. “Jesus loves Andy that much to go through all the pain.” Or “Jesus did that just for Caroline.”

Sometimes I feel like it is easier to accept the fact that Jesus died for me, than it is for me to accept the fact that Jesus died for _______. We complain about other people. We judge other people. We get frustrated with others. Yet, how would our attitude toward others change if we look at those around us and think, “Jesus died for him.” To be reminded that Jesus’ blood was shed for Lindsay just as much as it was shed for me, changes the way I view her.

As Easter approaches, I challenge you to take time not only to reflect on God’s love for you, but to specifically reflect on God’s love for those around you. He loves them, and he went to the cross in order to extend his grace and mercy to them. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Email from a friend

Over the past few months I have continued to work extremely diligently on getting my next book to the point where it is ready to be published. While I have been working on the writing specifically for around ten months, the idea behind the book has been on my heart for a few years. In fact, the original run that sparked the idea happened while living in Germany several years ago. In my last year in Germany I had the opportunity to speak at chapel and I shared about that particular run and the idea of leaving a footprint behind. While I did not know it at the time, it was the beginning of the journey that would bring me to the point of writing the book.
The other day I got the following email from a student who was in chapel the day I shared a few years ago. I found the email extremely exciting and challenging, and wanted to share it below:

Hey Tommy!
How's it going? I thought of you the other day because you love your footprint analogy, like thinking about how we impact people, knowingly and unknowingly and I had a moment the other day that was a perfect example of that! It really made the whole idea real for me.
So I was in a class that is essentially like an intro to professional practice class and we were practicing interviews with each other. Half the class left and waited until their name was called by another classmate and then it switched and the other half went out. Well I interviewed a girl and then after, I went out and, slightly nervous, waited to be called. 
This guy comes out and calls me and I say "hi" and introduce myself and whatnot as we walk back to the classroom. Well then he tells me that we've met before. I rack my brain but his face did not look familiar at all!
He tells me we had lunch together with his friend last semester. Apparently I had just sat down randomly with them because the cafeteria was so full. Still, I remembered nothing. This is probably because I had done this multiple times last semester haha, you know me. 
<<< "HEY can I sit with you?? I'm _____ and I need a place to sit." >>> Maybe something like that.
Anyways! After him telling me more I did recall the specific time because I had sat down by his friend and we had eaten in silence for about five minutes before this guy Troy came back from getting food and joined us, and that was rather funny. 
The point is, this guy Troy remembered me. He remembered my face. He remembered I was interesting (when I ask him "how I was interesting" he said because of the fact I had just sat down randomly with them) and I realized, that without even trying or thinking about it, I had left a footprint.
And that made me think, "Wow, I really can make an impact, even a small one in just these little interactions that I quickly forget. They can be important. What kind of impact/impression am I making? Thankfully this one was a good one but can I use these moments, or rather, let God use these moments to further the kingdom of God and let others see even a brief glimpse of his love and glory?"

So then I thought of you. I've always liked the analogy you presented and the idea of it but I think this was the first time I really saw it in action in my life. It was pretty exciting.