Of Book-It Buttons, Kindles, and Random, Unexpected Callings. Or Why I’m The Most Unlikeliest of Authors!

If you were a child of the 80’s and 90’s like me you might remember a now-defunct reading program at Pizza Hut called Book-It. I think it went out the door around the time that cheese went into their crust.

Anyway, for those out of the know, it was this ingeneous program that rewarded kids for reading with little gold stars—who doesn’t like gold stars?!—on a big, fat button. When you read a certain number of books you got yourself a personal pan pizza, a soda, and some cool Pizza Hut gizmo.

What was particularly cool about this promo, was that the class with the most books read by the most students received a pizza party sponsored by the pizza franchise.

But here’s the thing: I lost it every single year for my elementary comrades. Sorry South Elementary School Class of 1992!

Yup, I was that kid who hated reading. Which is odd because both of my parents are readers, so if the psychology and social science is right, I should have been one, too. But I wasn’t.

I think I just couldn’t sit still long enough to slog through a 100 pager with 14pt font. I also much more prefered inventing my own story in the woods as a secret agent for some Banana Republic government or on my neighborhood streets as a cop chasing criminals with my siren-bedecked bike.

In short, I hated reading. And my hatred deprived my poor classmates of yearly Book-It trophies. Again, my bad South Elementary!

Now fast forward to nearly a decade ago, when I released my first book under my nonfiction name, Jeremy Bouma, the (un)offensive gospel of Jesus. And fast forward to half a decade ago when I finished my first draft of my first novel, leading to round 2 of National Novel Writing Month to work on and finish a hairbrained, epic serialized novel series that’s a mashup of Game of Thrones, the Divergent series, and Fox Book of Martyr: History of the Lives, Sufferings and Deaths of Early Christians. (Just wait for it!) All of which led to writing an action-adventure religious conspiracy thriller series in the mold of Dan Brown, James Rollins, and Steve Berry.

I went from being a book hater to a book reader to a book writer. My full Kindle—with some of my own books—stands in sharp contrast to that empty Book-It button.

Ahh the ironies of life!

A few years ago when I was still a minister, a woman in my congregation and I got to talking about my interests as an author. She asked me if I had ever had interest in writing as a career. I confessed it had never occurred to me. Never in a million years.

Like, ever.

Yes I had high hopes for my Young Authors books—what kid doesn’t. I wrote a pretty dang good alternative history to the three little pigs, where Mr. Bad Wolf was framed—hey, maybe I should resurrect that one!

But no, never thought I would be making money from selling my art. Which brings up another conversation I had a few years ago. A random woman stopped me in a coffee shop and asked if I was an artist. She thought she recognized me from some exhibit or concert or something. I replied in a nervous laugh, “Uhh, no. I mean I’ve written some books, but not an artist.” At that time I could barely think of myself as an author, much less an artist. Since those conversations I’ve racked up lots of books to my credit.

Again, the ironies of life.

Perhaps more profoundly, more mind-blowingly are the random, unexpected callings of life. The random, unexpected ways that God calls us forth to till, cultivate, and work the soil of this hardened planet in order to make our God-given mark for his glory and for the good of this world.

Toward the end of Paul’s ministry he was compelled by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem. What’s amazing about this simple declaration “I am going to Jerusalem” is what followed: “and I don’t know what will happen to me there.”

This is only half true. Because he goes on to say that, while he didn’t know what exactly would happen when he arrived, what he did know was that “in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardship are facing me.”

Prison. Harship. That’s what’s waiting for Paul in Jerusalem. And it is waiting, it does come. Shortly after he arrives he is arrested, which sets of a series of events that brings him to Rome—and later death.

The point is what Paul says in the face of what he faces: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Now this is a random, unexpected calling if I ever heard one! Because many of us know that before Paul decided to follow Jesus he was a high ranking Jewish official who persecuted and oversaw the lynchings and killings of his followers.

Yet one hot, dusty afternoon, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords stepped into Paul’s story to call him to himself and call him to a task, the specific task of testifying to rescue and re-creation through Himself.

Since that day Paul’s only aim was to finish the race, meaning to follow Jesus well in this life; and then to complete his specific, unique, random, unexpected task and calling given to him by King Jesus.

Neither I nor Paul could have ever anticipated the random, unexpected ways that King Jesus would have wanted to use us. Perhaps you understand the feeling.

A Kindle filled with authored books. A Book-It button empty with stars.Those objects stand stand as symbols to the unexpected twists and turns in the random, unexpected callings God places on each of our lives. For me it’s communicating, as a pastor and as an author. That’s my task, my random, unexpected calling that stands in sharp contrast to my empty childhood Book-It button.

What’s your Book-It button? What’s your Kindle?

More importantly:

What’s your aim? What’s your task, your calling?




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Holy Shroud

Order of Thaddeus • Book 1

An ancient threat. A sacred relic. A belief that hangs in the balance.

Ex-Army Ranger and professor Silas Grey is on the verge of proving a central belief of the Church that will rock the religious and non-religious worlds to their core: scientific proof of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. But before he can, a series of devastating blows not only threaten Silas and those close to him, but the Christian faith itself. 

Coming to his aid is an ancient religious order, the Order of Thaddeus, that has been battling an ancient cultic threat, Nous. Spanning the globe from Washington to Paris to Jerusalem, Silas and the Order combine forces to embark on an urgent mission for the very survival of the Church. Can they save the Church’s most important sacred relic before the memory of its central belief is destroyed forever?

Holy Shroud is the first book in the Order of Thaddeus action-adventure thriller series that combines the religious conspiracy suspense of Dan Brown with the historical insight of Steve Berry, and wraps it in the special-ops muscle of James Rollins and inspiration of Ted Dekker.

Explore this innovative new adventure by emerging author J A Bouma that straddles thrill and thought, faith and doubt.


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