It was my turn on stage. The canvas stood before me, a palette of oils was suddenly in my left hand and the brush in my right. “Compose,” was the command.

“But I am not an author. I have never done anything of this magnitude– not even close. My life is marked with so many failures. Isn’t this great task better left to someone with more talent?” All the while, my heart overflowed with joy at the prospect set before me.

“Play the part. I will give you the lines when required. You must open your mouth and boldly speak my words.”

“When you begin, I will be with you,” was the only response. It was like a director saying to the young actor cast in a pivotal role: “Play the part. I will give you the lines as they are required. You must open your mouth and boldly speak my words.”

  A series of small strokes caused my dear mother, Edith Finkbeiner, to lose her balance. As I ushered her from her apartment to her doctor, she told the manager, “I won’t be back.” She made pessimistic comments before but had bounced back many times, but her words stuck. She did, in fact, return to her beloved living quarters but it would be a full ten months later and then only briefly. Meanwhile, she would keep paying the rent optimistically hoping she would live there, in her apartment, again. It would be the carrot on the stick, motivating mother’s recovery.

My sister, Marilyn, made the decision to take mother to her home in Southern California.  Her rehabilitation time was running out. Decisions had to be made. It seemed like a bit of a reach for a weak and elderly lady of ninety-three to fly to the West Coast, but it was the right thing to do. It was during these days of decision that I had been prompted by God in my friend’s living room to write.

With scarcely any hesitation, my sister said, “Use mother’s apartment. It will be her gift to you while she is away.”

It was mid-November of 2008. Plans were finalized for Mother’s move. While riding in the car with Marilyn, I shared the news that I was being led to write a book. But, I told her that I had a challenge: Working at home was not suitable. With scarcely any hesitation, my sister said, “Use mother’s apartment. It will be her gift to you while she is away.”

That was it! Perfect. It was quiet. It was sitting empty. No distractions. There was not even a TV to beckon for my attention. I could hunker down with my trusty laptop and follow God’s lead.

The first moment I stepped into what would become my space, I knew the Lord’s hand was on my project.  Marilyn had set up the room. She left 3X5 note cards, pens, table, swivel chair and the following note:

“John, You are Blessed. This is your domain for your book inside waiting to be published. Your Mommy paid for this space with her own money. This is your domain & yours alone.. Plan, Work, Write, No Regrets” 

Happy tears filled my eyes. I had an artist’s studio to create in. The keyboard and blank paper were before me. All I needed was my Bible and concordance and to sit and get down to business.

In the context of his completed autobiography, “RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon,” the then former president was asked for the secret to his literary achievement. “Keep your butt in the seat,” he answered. His surprising advice was filed away in my mind.

Long before I heard the call to write, I just happen to listen to a popular radio talk show host quote the late Richard Nixon. In the context of his completed autobiography, “RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon,” the then former president was asked for the secret to his literary achievement. “Keep your butt in the seat,” he answered. His surprising advice was filed away in my mind. It would come to me many times over the next several months. At times, I felt as though butt and chair formed a bond.

My other job was the perfect complement. It provided part-time hours and a valuable place to put forth the revelations God was giving me. I could try out my fresh insights in Sunday sermons and Bible studies to see how they held together in the forum of ideas. I could receive feedback and hear challenges to my conclusions. (That was not all my work as prison chaplain did, but more on that later.)  The Revelation Bible Study I taught since the summer of 06’, using my own teaching material, was a vital link to what God was showing me. A series of seminars related to prophecy, in which I provided the curriculum, were all part of the foundation God gave me to build upon.

 Admittedly, the first person singular pronoun, “I”, has been used a lot thus far. However, as the late 16th century English poet, John Donne, wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” There are literally hundreds that should be recognized for their contribution– persons in my past and present. Could I accomplish what God gave me to do without my wife’s support and understanding? Could I labor on without the many that held me accountable to do what I said I would? Nothing of substance is done alone.

(End of Part 2)

Advertisements