Today’s Xulon Press Successful Author Spotlight features Josh Baker, the 2012 winner of the Xulon Press Christian Choice Writing Contest who has written a Christian fiction Young Adult novel called “Please Don’t Remove MarGreat’s Glasses!”, www.margreat.com, and he just won the April 2013 Kindle Book Award, competing against 117 titles, garnering more than 2250 votes. Josh recalls how he entered his short story “Easter Plans!” into the Xulon Press contest the night before the deadline– he didn’t think he had a chance to win, but he still wanted the experience of participating. He shares his unabashed excitement when he was called and congratulated for being the winner! His dedication to the Christian fiction young adult genre is reflected in his discussion of this book, the message to young adults that he placed in its pages, and his hope for this generation, as they search out and seek spiritual answers. Josh’s story follows 19 year old Timothy Clement, from a time of high hopes and dreams through a series of unexpected events that leave his character abandoned by all he loved and knew. Until he meets a man named Jude...with a message for all young adults today.
When I asked Josh “What one past experience changed the course of your life?” he shared the following “I was raised catholic and had early experiences with seeds of doubts toward my faith—I was a real analytical kid. I became an altar boy, a good student who studied hard. After being confirmed, during high school, I fell away from the church. I was agnostic, not even sure if there was a God. I tried to come up with my own theories of the universe, like most kids do. I became enticed with secularism because I was able to make up the rules and not feel bad about it. I now realize that I was totally wrong.”
He continued. “As an adult, I was into material things—really into this world’s “things”. Then I had an experience three years ago. At the time, I was anti-Christian, anti-religion. I made fun of anyone who was strong in their faith. I thought religion was silly and whiney. I made a lot of fun of it. And then one morning, something miraculous happened! I woke up full of the Holy Spirit, and I had a supernatural experience. I remember that I got up and went to Barnes and Noble and had this real need to read the Bible. I had this urgent sense to read scripture. I remember looking at the Bible section. There were just so many choices on that bookstore wall. I decided to grab a Bible, and I thought, “I will read it in three weeks!” I selected The Message because it was plain spoken. My wife was strong in her faith, even though I considered myself to be agnostic. My friends were atheist—definitely not into their faith. I remember thinking that I couldn’t talk to my wife about this sudden hunger for The Word of God— because of my previous behavior– it was a real lonely time—I wanted to share this with her but just couldn’t tell her. So, I read the Bible. My wife would say “what are you doing?” I couldn’t tell her yet. I would keep to myself and then would ask if she knew what the bible said about certain things? It was such a lonely time for me. My routine was: God woke me up and I went to mass. Every moment of the mass– every prayer– every reading; I was really into all of it. I started to analyze my life–I realized how much time I had wasted. I would meditate on what I had read in the Bible. I saturated myself in the Word– and then ideas came to me and I started writing down these thoughts. I thought “I have a lot of material here,” but I wasn’t sure what the Lord was going to do with all of this—until Tracy.”
Josh explained. “Tracy Sullivan from Xulon Press sent me an email and started talking to me about my writing. Then Tracy sent me an email about a writing contest Xulon was having. I thought that I would apply. The result: I didn’t place or get any mention. I was discouraged. Then there was a new contest. I got this email from Tracy telling me about it. But…The deadline ended at midnight—that day! It was 6pm pacific, 9pm eastern. I wrote this story called “Easter Plans”, and I submitted it for the April 2012 contest. I sent it off, knowing it wasn’t my best work but– I had no expectation of winning. I got a call the next day and was blown away that I had won the first prize! Tracy sent a handwritten note saying that she was moved by my short story. It was touching– so… I started writing “Please Don’t Remove Margreat’s Glasses!” I wrote the last 3rd of my book by July 21st and turned it over in October for publishing. It has been such an interesting journey. My hope is that it helps someone– Inspires them to never give up, go ahead and take a chance, and always believe in your gift—put it out there for others to read—you may just win 1st place in a writing contest!”
Attempting to glean from his experience for our readers, I asked “What is your writing method when you start a project?” He responded “I use an outline. That really works best for me. It sets up all of the following: the story, the key points, the pacing, the characters, subplot paced, making sure that the emotions in the story are balanced well. I have to map out what I want to write—then I follow my map!”
Digging deeper concerning his relationship with Christ, I asked “What is the most important life event you have had?” Josh shared “No other more important than the morning I changed the order of my life. That day I realized that I can rely on God— I can’t even rely on myself. God has to come first. God will not let me down. I was really repentant. I was asking for God to lead me and for me to do His will. When I allowed myself to be forgiven from Him and move on. That’s when I felt the change. I am alive, I know the Lord, and I know where I am going and I serve Him every day now. He changed my life completely!”
Reflecting on his journey, I questioned “What message do you want shared by the story of your life?” Josh paused for a moment and got really quiet. Then he spoke “I was really brutal to Christians. I was really a jerk. I treated them with disrespect and disdain. But I came to realize that salvation is available to everyone—even me. I went from being a really critical person and intolerant of “Christians” to now– I pray for people who now act like I once acted. I am hopeful that God can change them like He changed me. God took the worst of us to show His immense grace. I now pray: Lord, keep me humble. Let Your will be done in my life and through me.”
Josh was ready for my signature question: “What will they write on your gravestone that will sum up your life?”
I could hear the smile come through the phone when he excitedly proclaimed his answer.
“Finally listened to the Lord and put the Lord’s will above His own!”
Now that he had completed extensive research and multiple readings of the Word of God, I asked Josh “What is your theme scripture and why?” He reflected “Acts Chapter 9: Saul meets Jesus on the Road to Damascus. The whole story of Saul’s conversion to becoming the Apostle Paul– That just rocks me. I go Wow! Even Paul talks about the thorn in his side. Everyone has a shot with God—even me!”
I felt compelled to ask Josh, hearing his testimony from agnostic to passionate Christian, what he would share with his “former self” if he could have ministered to him God’s love. I challenged Josh to share how he would have counseled himself five years ago with—“what would you have said to you?”
Josh really thought hard about this and then quietly, reflectively, humbly, he said “I would assure myself, when you’re done with all of this emptiness– He will be waiting there for you, when you’re ready to turn to Him.”
And He was.
As I closed our conversation, I had this sense of sincere appreciation that, like Saul, God never gave up on Josh; and like Paul, Josh shares his conversion story to anyone he meets on their Road to Damascus.
And I had this feeling that—Josh Baker is just the person they will want to meet—
Like a man named Jude.
Tags: Writing Contest