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START A NEW TRADITION THIS EASTER!

BLOG #13, SERIES #8
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
START A NEW TRADITION THIS EASTER
March 29, 2017

It’s passing strange, isn’t it: That two of our holidays are equally central to the Christian Church—yet only one of them is accompanied by stories. That, of course, is Christmas. Untold thousands of stories have been written about Christmas—and such stories are read and cherished by millions every Christmas season. But can you even remember the last time you came across a book containing inspirational Easter stories?
Seventeen years ago, my only book of spiritually-based East stories (Easter in My Heart: Uplifting Stories of Redemption and Hope) was published by WaterBrook/Random House. It was anything but an easy book to put together. In fact, it appeared almost impossible. I tell the story of my dilemma in my introduction: “Rediscovering Easter”:

Scan0014 Easter                                     Frontispiece for the book “Easter in My Heart”
Once in a while, as the years passed, I’d consider editing a collection of stories having to do with that other great Christian high day, Easter. But I quickly reconsidered when I found that such stories were almost nonexistent — much, much rarer than Christmas stories!

Thus it was that when Dan Rich and his splendid team at WaterBrook asked if I was interested in putting together a collection of Easter stories, I didn’t think it was possible. So I temporized, and I tried to get them to accept a watered-down mix of stories having to do with Easter, springtime, turning points, new beginnings, and New Year themes. Providentially, they held their ground: No, what we want are Easter stories that incorporate spiritual values.

I said I’d see what I could do. First I checked Christian book stores. No such animal: “Easter stories? Never seen such a book! Ought to be a market for them, though.”

Time passed, and the deadline for manuscript submission was fast approaching. I began to get worried. Really worried. So I turned it over to the good Lord: “Father,” I prayed, “I believe it is Your will that I put together a collection of Easter stories; if that is true, will You please help me?” Right after I turned the matter over to Him, things began happening.

I never cease to be amazed by God’s incredible choreography. A number of years ago, when Christmas in My Heart was in its infancy, a friend of mine, the Reverend Dr. Darrell Richardson, called me up and told me he was in town for a convention, and had brought me a present. It turned out to be a large box of old (well over half a century) inspirational magazines, all filled with stories. As the years passed by, I looked into the box once, picked out a Christmas story or two, then forgot about it.

Now, on deadline for the Easter collection, I found myself on an apparently dead-end street. There were not nearly enough Christ-centered Easter stories to fill a book. Every morning I would again ask God for help. If it was really His will that such a collection be put together, would He please help me find such stories–and quickly! One morning, the conviction came: Find that box of old magazines! In due time, I found it, and then scanned through the entire collection. In the process, I found more great Easter stories than I had encountered in the entire course of my life! How incredible, and humbling, to realize that years ago, God knew the day was coming when those stories would be needed–and had them sent to me ahead of time! I no longer believe in coincidence: I have experienced too many such instances of divine scripting and choreography. But only recently did I find a biblical basis for that assumption (Psalm 139:1-5, 15-16), one of the most life-changing passages in all Scripture.

Strange, isn’t it, that such an Easter-story shortage should exist. Once upon a time, for a very short time, Christian writers wrote Easter stories for inspirational journals. Then, suddenly, no one wrote any more. Their inexplicable absence is not unique to just the story genre, as I learned while searching for Easter poetry and quotations. Apparently, there is an unspoken assumption that people aren’t at all interested in such things!

One never-to-be-forgotten day, I took stock of what the Lord had brought to me. Lo and behold, it was, I believe, as powerful a collection of short stories as I’ve ever been privileged to place between two covers! By now, I clearly realized that He was at work behind the scenes This was not merely another book–it was a divinely ordained one.

Now, I belatedly faced another problem: I had never written an Easter story before–was this going to be the first of my anthologies to be published without a story of my own? As the deadline neared, again I asked God–as I have so many times before–that if it were His will for a story of mine to be included, would He please help bring the right one to my mind? He did, and He continued to bless and guide my pen during the initial seventy-two-hour gestation period. The result is, “The Hollow Man.”

* * *

Scan0015-Hollow Man
Woodcut illustration for “The Hollow Man” story.

“The Hollow Man” is the only Easter romance I have ever written.
I’ll be most interested in your reactions to it.
The Lord gifted me with the story’s opening poetic lines:

Oh he was handsome, beautiful as a Greek god,
But he was empty: a hollow boom-booming drum;
Oh he could speak, could sway multitudes,
But inside, where his heart should have been,
There was only sawdust, straw,
And swirling, mocking winds.

                                                                          * * * * *
So it is that, on the occasion of this Easter season, I humbly urge each of you to prayerfully consider beginning a new tradition: weaving into your thoughts and devotions these Easter stories the Lord delivered to me long before the book was even proposed to me by WaterBrook.
This poor forsaken ugly duckling of a book I graced by wonderful woodcut illustrations inside but crippled by one of the poorest choices for a dust-jacket I have ever seen) has all but died on book-signing tables for seventeen years now. If indeed, in the Lord’s own timing, its time has at last come, order the book from us—and give the stories an opportunity to speak to your heart.
I’ll make it easy for you: Though this dust-jacketed hardback retailed for $13.99, you may order as may copies as you wish from us [they’re all pristine and new] at only $5.00 each, plus shipping. You’ll find it on our web page: http://joewheelerbooks.com.

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