P.O. Box 281, Lynden, WA 98264   @damonjgray  

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The Christ Saturated Life Questions:

The manuscript for The Christ Saturated Life is complete, and is undergoing intense proofing and minor editing as we speak. That said, it could still be some time before it is available in book form. Many of you are aware that I self-published Finding Faith in Slow Motion, and while that was a tremendous learning experience, it is my preference to go a different route with The Christ Saturated Life. To that end, I am actively pursuing agents and publishers with queries and proposals. Once I have that relationship solidified, I will have a better idea of an estimated release date.

Finding Faith in Slow Motion Questions:

I came up with that book title while driving home from work one afternoon. It was prompted by a radio announcer's comment in which he described a particular activity as though he were performing it in slow motion. At the time I was commuting about 90 miles each direction for work, so I had a lot of thinking time on the road.

The pursuit of faith feels, at times, like trying to run a marathon in a lake filled with honey. It is slow and arduous. Oft times, I do not know if I am running forward or backward. Just as often I forget that I am in a race at all. I am not fully convinced we ever really grasp the meaning or identity of faith until we see Jesus face to face. Perhaps then it will all make sense, but for now, the pursuit of faith feels very much like a slow motion endeavor.

There is a chapter in the book titled, 'The Impetus' where I talk more in-depth about this.

My dearest friend at the time was dying of leukemia, and has since passed. Based on James 5, we had prayed over him many times, and anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord, yet he was not healed, at least not in the way I wanted or expected. This spurred me to look more deeply into the 'prayer offered in faith' and the more I studied, the more I believed I needed to broaden my perspective and investigation of what faith is at its core, in addition to how it applied to my friend's illness.

It was not my intent to write a book, but rather to get some understanding, and some peace regarding what was happening to my friend. It just sort of became a book, and even then, I did not intend to publish it. That came at my wife's urging. She was deeply persuaded that the ideas in my research needed to be shared with others.

Wow ... only one sentence?

I guess I would say that your faith is what it is today, right now, right where you are, and that as you are true to that understanding of your faith, God loves you right there and accepts you as His beloved.

I believe the most difficult challenge I had with Finding Faith in Slow Motion is the same challenge I am having with my current book, and that is finding time to work on it. I work full-time in a very mentally taxing position. When I get home each evening, the last thing I want to do is expend even more mental energy. Instead, I want to relax with my best friend, my wife Alean, doing something enjoyable together. As I write this, our current evening activity is to assemble a jigsaw puzzle. This activity allows us to relax our minds and savor each other's company. We also enjoy playing games, evening bike rides, walks around town, sitting in the hot-tub together, or watching an exciting soccer match.

The same holds true for weekends. Weekends present the only opportunity we have to invest extended blocks of time doing enjoyable activities together. We live in an enviously beautiful part of the world, so it is an easy thing to go hiking in the mountains, on National Forest Service trails, or for long walks along the bay. The San Juan Islands are so close we can stand on the shore and see them.

When I do make time to sit and write or study, a second challenge is finding a place that is free of distraction. I am in awe of those authors who can write amid the commotion of their local coffee shop. That is not my gift. I need a place that is fairly quiet, with perhaps just a little white noise - the hum of a fan, or the sound of a gentle rainfall.

Finally, I have the constant challenge of being satisfied with my own work. I lost track of how many times I read through Finding Faith in Slow Motion, tweaking, rewording, adjusting, re-tweaking. At some point, you just have to accept that it is what it is, and ship it to the printer. Even with the book in print, I look at it and sigh because I think something could have been worded more effectively, or that I should have expanded on some idea or section of the manuscript.

General Questions:

Ideas are all around us. Life happens whether or not we are watching. I watch/listen to the news, talk with friends and coworkers, watch what people struggle with as they move through life.

I work full time as an IT professional, so inspiration to write often comes as a disruption. I may be driving somewhere, sitting in a meeting at work, or even coding up some logic loop when an inspiration intrudes into my day. I have my antennae up throughout the day, so when an idea, or a provocative thought hits me, I try to capture that in writing as soon as possible. My wife bought me a beautiful writer's notebook as an anniversary gift a couple of years back, and I keep that close by to record reflections as they come.

I take inspiration from everything I can - things I see around me, things people say to me or that I overhear them say to those around me. Sometimes friends will ask outright if I would consider writing about some subject of interest to them. I was asked recently if I would consider writing on a Christian man's response to human trafficking in the U.S.

As I read my Bible, and walk through each day, I looking for those biblical truths expressed in the lives of those around me. I look for what touches people, or troubles them, and compare that to what I understand to be our heavenly Father's desire for us.

I like to write in a conversational style. This has both advantages, and drawbacks. It is advantageous in that conversational writing is easy to read. A book that is difficult to read and understand may be excellent in many respects, but it is not a book I will enjoy reading. I read with two primary objectives in mind. One is to relax, and the other is to learn. If the writing is tedious and difficult, I will not relax, and there is a good chance I will set the book aside and not learn. In such a case, I have failed on both fronts.

Because I like to write in a conversational style, I battle the tendency to write the same way I speak. Indeed, I can hear myself saying the words as I type them. I am doing it as I respond to this question. A wise and courageous friend pointed out my tendency in this area, and in doing so, she did far more to improve my writing ability than anything taught me by a college professor. What may come across wonderfully in a sermon or a lectureship series does not necessarily translate into an effective or enjoyable written word.

It feels a little weird to be asked this question, because I consider myself an aspiring author. That said, I have been writing most of my adult life. My advice (even to myself) for those writing in the English language is to get a solid command of the language. So many worthy ideas do not make it to wide readership, and one of the greatest barriers to that readership is poor conveyance of wonderful ideas. A skilled editor is a must have, but it is our job as writers to make the editor's job as easy as possible, and a joy rather than a frustration.

I believe I could answer this better if I were writing full-time. Nonetheless, even part-time, writing can be deeply frustrating, or immensely rewarding. I enjoy the fact that, unlike speaking, as I write I have the ability to go back as many times as I need to (until published), to edit, refine, massage a paragraph until it says what I want it to say. A writer is often his/her own worst critic. I am especially hard on my own work, so it very rewarding to read through a paragraph that has been labored over, and think to myself, 'I like the way that reads.'

Another blessing of being a writer is to hear from readers who have been moved by your work, who have been helped in some way, or who have used it in their own speaking or writing. I was deeply moved, recently, to get a note from a gentleman in New Jersey telling me he had used a chapter of my book as the basis for his sermon for that week. Such feedback is tremendously heartwarming.

Yes, I do get writer's block, and it is a frustrating sensation, but I believe it is more difficult for fiction authors than nonfiction authors. When I hit the wall, so to speak, it is usually an indication that I need to do more research on my subject, or that I have not fully thought through what it is I am writing about.

I also find that there are times I am blocked in one area but have thoughts in another area that I can write about while putting the first one on hold. Ideas come when they come, and this is the reason I cannot always schedule in time to write. Furthermore, ideas come that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject I’m writing about at the moment. So, I write these ideas down and set them aside so they can age like a fine wine.

I have to be passionate about my subject, or it just doesn't work for me. In fact, sometimes my passion for what I am writing is so strong that the editor has to rein me in a bit. There are occasionally comments along the lines of 'This is a little strong, isn't it?' So, for writer's block, I have to follow my passion. In practice, that means I have a half-dozen manuscripts started that are sitting idle, waiting for the passion to return.

Are we talking about calendar time? Finding Faith in Slow Motion and The Christ Saturated Life each took three years to complete, but total writing time was not nearly that long.

In truth, I don’t quite know how to answer this question, and interestingly, this is a question that is asked with surprising frequency. Sometimes the question is asked as above, referencing time to write a book. Other times, it is about time to finish a first draft, and still other times the question is about how many words per day, or words per hour I typically write, almost as if it is a resume question about how many words per minute I can type (without error).

Once I know what I want to say, I can get it down in a manuscript fairly quickly, so with that, I can knock out a chapter in a few hours. It is the research that takes so long. If all of my research were complete, I could probably put together an acceptable manuscript in four to six months, but the reality is, it doesn’t work that way. I do some research and write for a while. Then I have another question I need to research, so the writing stops.

I hear authors at writers’ conferences or in forums who set goals to write 1,000 words a day. I have even heard some boast (and I do mean 'boast') of being able to write 2,000 words a day. That all sounds and feels very robotic to me. And ultimately, what does all that even mean? Nothing... The reality is, I write while I have something to say, and when I am done saying it, I am done. In my mind, writing quickly does not equate with writing well.

This is another difficult question, because there are so many books that I really like very much. I have over 2,000 books in my library. Still, I am asked fairly often which books I found most helpful.

Please take a look at the Recommended Reading page for a listing of those books I have found helpful and worth recommending. This is not an exhaustive list. There are others I could place on this list, but using stringent criteria, these are the ones that, for one reason or another, have made the final cut.

This is a great question, and I thought a long time about it before answering. As hard as I tried, I could not narrow it down to just one name, so I am violating the 'rules' of the question and offering two names, and I am violating it even further by offering one of the names as a writer and the other as a speaker. Chuck Swindoll and/or Landon Saunders. I have read many of Swindoll's books, and enjoy both his writing and his speaking very much. I have not read anything by Saunders, though I know he has authored several works, but his lessons, lectures, and sermons have impacted me in profound ways.

To me, a mentor is someone who is older, because they must have lived long enough to have experienced what I am experiencing now, and survived it. A mentor cannot be where I am, but must have been there at a time in history and come out the other side. Both of these men have been where I am, and have much wisdom to share from their experiences. Both have an uncanny ability to take the Bible and make it come alive for the reader/hearer. Both have hearts that burn passionately for God and for the flock under their care. Both have a broken heart for those who struggle to find God and to understand what God has done, and is doing to touch humanity.

I was asked recently, if I could sit on the beach for an afternoon with anyone, living or dead, who would that be. I choose these two men. Either would be an excellent choice.

Just as it was the case with picking a single author as a mentor, it is difficult to pick a favorite author or a favorite book. Usually my favorite book is whatever book I am reading right now, assuming the book is any good. As for authors, I find various things to like in different authors' presentation style.

I like Bob Sorge because he presents such wonderful challenges to my intimacy with God. I like Donald Miller because he writes so simply, and so conversationally, yet the deceptively simple presentation is often deep and profound in the concepts it conveys. I like Chuck Swindoll because I have yet to come across anyone who can take the Biblical text and make it as practical as he can. I like C. S. Lewis, because his theology is deep, and his ability to tell a captivating story is unmatched.

No. Not at this time anyway. It just isn’t my gift or my passion.

If I could write full time, and make a living doing so, that would be a dream come true, but the reality is, I work full time, and I need to give my best efforts to that employer while I am on this side of retirement. Perhaps when I am retired from Anvil Corp., I can write on more of a full time basis.

Sometimes, but not always. I know that’s not a real satisfying answer, but it is the truth. Sometimes I have an outline and I build it out and start hanging meat on the skeleton. More often, however, I have an idea, or a question, and I write everything I can think of related to that idea or question, and the outline grows out of that work.

Oh, absolutely! I show my raw manuscripts to people I trust, often ten or twelve individuals, each with skills and insights I value, before sending it off for professional editing - pastors, authors, legal counsel, friends, family, and finally professional editors. Many of them offered useful, constructive feedback and suggestions.

With my first manuscript, some of the most valuable feedback came from authors Robin Williams (A Deadly Suggestion), and William Sirls (The Reason, and The Sinner’s Garden). Both spoke directly to writing style, challenging the very approach I had taken to the work. I incorporated many of their suggestions into the final manuscript. At one point, my wife became concerned that, with so many edits, the book was no longer mine. I always had the ability to accept or reject the feedback, but the criticisms were so excellent that more often than not, I accepted the comments and incorporated the suggestions.

Even after all of that feedback and rework, the manuscript came back from the editors virtually bleeding red ink. What I thought was a fairly polished manuscript came back from editing with hundreds of marks. It was a humbling experience, but I have to say, the edits were excellent, and I agreed with almost every one of them.

A good editor is an essential element to publishing.

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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν