Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Squeezing Good Out of Bad by James N. Watkins: Win a Lemon Prize!

Lately I've felt that my world has grown quite a few lemons. Even though I live in Indiana, those lemon trees can grow here, too. What do you do when life hands you lemons? Well, we all know you're supposed to make lemonade, but just what is that recipe? (Read on but don't forget to leave a comment to win a basket of lemony goodness! )

Jim Watkins, an author, husband, father, grandfather, humorist, cancer survivor and over-all glass-half-full guy, not only will help you to be encouraged by the goodness of God in your bad circumstances, he will provide a few laughs along the way. Jim has had his share of life's lemons, came up with a few recipes of his own and shares them with us in his new book.

Squeezing Good Out of Bad by James N. Watkins

Sour circumstances left you feeling down? Unemployment, foreclosures, divorce, bankruptcy and cancer don't even begin to peel the skin off all the bad news in our world today. At a time in history when the evening news contains more bad than good, people wonder if sweeter days will ever come. In steps James (Jim) Watkins with a fresh perspective on life, love and the pursuit of happiness serves readers a refreshing cup of encouragement and hope.

Written from his own experiences with cancer, unemployment and other life-puckering crises, Jim prompts readers to look at the cup of suffering with eyes focused on the true thirst quencher--Jesus Christ. Readers will be pleasantly surprised at the balance of readability and deep wisdom offered within the pages of Squeezing Good Out Of Bad. With scripture references, humor-filled lists, and a creative manuscript, Watkins brings the bitterness of hard times and blends it with the sweetness of God's presence. He's been there. His transparency is as refreshing as, you guessed it, a tall, cool glass of lemonade.

Jim agreed to answer some questions about his own life:

1. Jim, you've been in the literary world for a while, give us a quick recap of how you got started to where you are today.

By second grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I felt the suspension of disbelief was stretched too thin when the real-live puppet Pinocchio became a real live boy. So I rewrote the ending having the wooden puppet die a painful, prolonged death of Dutch elm disease. (At that point, I'm sure my parents and teachers weren't sure if I'd become a writer or a life-long patient at a psychiatric hospital.) I later went on to become the editor of my high school paper, worked at a Christian publishing house as an editor during college, and then dabbled in writing while holding down a real job. Since 1988 I've been writing and speaking full-time.

2. In Squeezing Good Out Of Bad you give many insightful tips on how to turn around sour circumstances. Share a practical way we can be encouraged during tough times.

My "top ten list" of chapter titles 10-4 provide practical steps for dealing with lemons, but the real secrets are found in chapters 3-1. (Yes, like a true top ten list, the chapters are numbered backward.) Romans 8:28 promises that that God is working all things out for our good to accomplish His purpose in our lives. But we have to read on to verse 29 to find that purpose: "to be conformed to the image of His Son."

3. No life is perfect. Can you give us an example of how you got through a challenging situation and were able to use these principles to see the good in it?

I think it's so important that we take our faith seriously, but I certainly don't want to take my situation or myself too seriously. So I create a mental "top ten" list of what good can come about in this situation. For instance, last year I had radiation for cancer and it totally depleted me physically and mentally. My family dubbed it "radiation retardation." Because of that, I was fired from a wonderful part-time job because I just couldn't do it. So, "Top Ten Great Things about Losing My Job": 10. I'll be paying less taxes next year. 9. I've got twenty hours a week of free time. 8. . . .

Our family is going through something right now that is far worse than cancer, and I can't see a single good thing that can come out of it. So, at those times, you just keep hanging on--with white knuckles--to the fact that God loves you and the Romans 8:28 is still in effect.

4. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spare time? What's that? I'm a firm believer in "redeeming the time" so I try to keep busy doing things that matter for the Kingdom. But after my little brain is worn out--usually around 7 pm--nothing beats a session of "Freecell."

5. What's the last book you read and why?

Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, the only real reading for pleasure is on airline flights. The King book is research for a book I'm proposing as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

6. What do you hope readers will gain by reading your book?

I wrote the first draft nine years ago, and even though I have a great agent, we just couldn't find a publisher. That was before cancer, family crisis, unemployment. . . . So it's a much more comforting, honest book. And it forced me to not be so flippant and casual about the serious issues people are dealing with. Henri Nouwen talks about "wounded healers." I think, because of the lemons that have piled up in my life, I can more compassionately offer comfort to those buried under a pile of lemons.

(Crystal here:) I've prayed for Jim and his family for years. Thanks, Jim, being open and honest about your pain and giving us your thoughts on how to handle such issues. Many of us feel alone when the lemons pile up. It's good to know that "wounded" people can become "healers" and find comfort, too.

Here's a little more info on Jim:
James N. Watkins is the author of sixteen books and over two thousand articles. He is the acquisition editor for Wesleyan Publishing House, an editorial advisor for ACW Press, instructor at Taylor University and a sought-after conference speaker. He’s won Campus Life’s Book of the Year award and various other awards for writing and editing. He’s married to Lois. They have two children and four grandchildren. His family is the lemonade in his life.

Now here's the part about you winning. Read on and comment!
Blog Tour Giveaway:

The blog host with the most comments will have the opportunity to send in one commentator's name for the grand prize giveaway. Here's what they'll win:

First prize: Jim will stop by your house with fresh-baked lemon cake and hot lemon tea. (Disclaimer: Offer available only to residents of Corn Borer, Indiana. Alternate prize includes a copy of Squeezing Good Out Of Bad, mixes for lemon tea, lemon cake, lemonade and assorted lemon candies. Not available where taxed or licensed. Winner responsible for safe and proper use of products.)

If Jim's disclaimer isn't enough humor for you, read on:

When life gives you lemons . . .

10. Don't confuse them with hand grenades (Identify the problem)

9. Check the delivery slip (Determine if it's your problem)

8. Sell them on eBay (Profit from the problem)

7. Paint smiley faces on them (Laugh at the problem)

6. Join a citrus support group (Share your problem)

5. Use as an all-natural, organic astringent (Grow from the problem)

4. Don't shoot the delivery driver (Forgive the problem-maker)

3. Graft to a lime tree for a refreshing, low-calorie soft drink (Take the problem to a higher level)

2. Grow your own orchard (Live a fruitful life despite—or because of—the problem)

1. Give off a refreshing fragrance (Live a lemon-fresh life)


Andrea Schultz said...

Crystal -

A lemon prize pack sounds great! Please throw my name into the hat!

Thanks & Merry Christmas - Andrea

Please check out my blog; there are daily posts about the 12 Pearls of Christmas. Come back daily to read memories from some wonderful authors and comment for your chance to win a three strand pearl necklace!

And please follow or subscribe to this newbie's new blog! Thanks! : )

Karen Lange said...

Great interview! Blessings to you and your readers:)

Christine Lindsay said...

Wise words. Like James says, God does work out all things for good, but we must understand what that looks like from God's point of view. But He's good and kind, and understands our frail frame. Thanks for sharing this Crystal, sounds like a book I need to buy to put under the Christmas trees this year.

Judy Gann said...

Great interview Crystal & Jim.

Jim, sometimes God asks us to "wait" for the publishing of a book so that we can personally experience things that will make the book stronger and more comforting to readers. God bless the ministry of your "lemon" book.

Please put my name in the drawing for the lemon prize pkg.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I liked what Jim said about treating people with more compassion after his own challenges.

During my late husband's battle with leukemia, people listened when he spoke about God's grace. They knew he wasn't spouting platitudes. He lived it in front of them.

Susan :)

Patti Lacy said...

Fun, fun blog.
Miss our occasional zap note!!


Crystal Laine said...

Thanks so much for all the comments! Because I like this book, I decided to draw a name and have Jim send that person this book for the new year!

I'll try emailing the winner and will purchase the book to be sent especially as my gift.

May God richly bless you and I've prayed for all of you today.