Since the paperback and ebook are not yet linked on Amazon:
In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Today I give you chapter 8, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like. Chapter 8 will get you about a third of the way through the book, and it’s the final chapter I’ll be posting on my website, as the book will soon be released on Amazon.
– Neri –
“Down, down,” Ben said, tugging on my hair.
“Okay you little dust dervish, here you go.”
As I dropped Ben onto the sandy road, he scurried back to Ruth and Anna, a tiny dust cloud in his wake. He collided into Anna’s legs, wrapped his pudgy arms around them, and squeezed. Anna, nearly falling, grabbed Ruth’s arm and steadied herself. Ben let go and headed for Ruth. But she was too quick for him. She bent down, shot her hands under his arms, and began tickling. Ben fell squirming to the ground, giggling wildly and kicking up even more dust. Ruth dropped to her knees and kept tickling.
I lost my thoughts on the silver star necklace resting within the soft recess at the base of Ruth’s neck. Her neck looked soft as camel cheese and white as goats milk.
A light blue sky hung high above the valley. Trees, bushes, and flowers thrived along the river’s edge. As far downriver as I could see there were red poppies, little yellow flower I didn’t know, date palm trees, and tall grasses—all in radiant color. The lush banks gave way to low grass bordering the road that followed the river. And on the other side of the road, soft meadows gently sloped toward the hills to the west.
The road felt good—it felt like freedom and adventure. I’d missed the feel of the road under my bare feet. Since sandals were for impressing people, and my tough feet didn’t need protecting, I’d tucked my sandals in my tool sack. I took in a slow, deep breath as I scanned the valley around me, and smiled.
Farther down river, as it bent west, buildings slid into view. Clusters of houses huddled between the river and the hills, with a few on the eastern shore. This side of the wall-less village, vegetables and grains sprouted in the fields on both sides of the road. A vineyard nestled on the slopes of the hills, with buds freshly breaking.
I glanced again at Ruth and Anna. Behind them marched a growing band of followers. Some I recognized as those I’d helped in the meadow. I walked faster to catch up to Yeshua.
“You know, Yeshua,” I said as fell into pace beside him, “seeing you heal people is like eating a whole camel—milk, cheese, and all. It’s so filling, so overwhelming, so irresistible. But then I’m empty again, and hungry for more, like I can’t ever get enough.” I looked over my shoulder at the trailing newcomers, “I think they might feel the same way.” Yeshua just smiled, and gazed up into the sky. “How does it feel to have so many people following you?”
“Neri, I welcome everyone, no matter why they come to me. I will never turn them away. But I wish they would follow because of who I am, not because of what I can do for them.” He took in a slow breath. “You know. True friends are those that don’t expect anything from you, those that stay your friend no matter what. But for now, their love for me is conditional—they will love and they will follow as long as I have something to give them.”
Was that why I followed him? For the promise of something more? I felt shame seep into my gut. But I had always strived to be different. And I was determined not to be just another follower.
“Neri, for those following me—if they follow far enough—they will see with their eyes what true love really is.”
Yeshua put his hand on my shoulder and firmly squeezed. “No conditions.”
Looking up, the jackals were at the gate. Where the road entered the village, a pack of brightly colored Pharisees prowled, all staring our way, arms crossed as if trying to bar entry. Like jackals, I felt they were hungry for fresh meat. But there would be no meat for them, not while I was around.
In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Last week I posted chapter 5. Today I give you the sixth chapter, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like.
The morning fog had crept from the lake, slithered through the streets, poured into my hut, and seeped into my bones like poison. Dampness always made the pain worse. I groaned through clenched teeth as I pushed myself out of bed and stood shivering on frozen feet.
“Come on Ruth, unlock the door!” my sister called again, fear rising in her voice. By now, her imagination was probably painting her a picture of my withered corpse. A bittersweet smile crossed my lips. Me dead—if only.
“What?” I yelled, yanking the door open. The effort left me wheezing. I swayed on wobbly legs, nausea creeping up my chest, sweat chilling the back of my neck.
“Finally! Listen Ruth, you remember the man I told you about? The healer? Well he’s on his way to our town and I heard he healed a man of leprosy in the village up north and now he’s on his way here and I’m sure he can heal you so you can finally be healthy again and you won’t feel any more pain and you can leave your house when you want, isn’t that great!”
“Yes. Great.” I marveled less about her words, and more about how my squirrel of a sister could say so much in one breath. “Now. Let me go back to bed.” I tried to close the door.
“No!” She wedged her leg against the door jam, knowing I didn’t have the strength to resist. “You need to go to him, so he can heal you.”
“Okay, I will. After he gets here. Now leave me alone.”
Copyright CJ Penn, 2020
In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ll be posting the first several chapters. Last week I posted chapter 2. Today I give you the third chapter, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like.
“Jared, something must be done about her,” Simon whispered to me as he glared down the table at Anna collapsed at the prophet’s feet.
“What? Who?” Oh, yes … Anna. Something should have been done, though not what Simon had in mind. Poor Anna—I wanted to help her, always had, partly because I knew more about Anna and her past than even her brother knew. But it wouldn’t do for a royal official to show sympathy for a prostitute—yes, I admit, a weak and cruel excuse.
Then there was the prophet, Yeshua. He intrigued me and confused me. As Anna wept at his feet, Yeshua didn’t treat her with lofty disdain, as most religious men would have. Instead, he showed nothing but gentle kindness, and a compassion that seemed to strengthen and empower her. The compassion Yeshua gave Anna made her look nobler to me than any priest.
Leaving Simon’s house before anyone else, I rushed home and to my son’s bed. His breathing had eased a bit, but he still looked as pale as bleached parchment, and the fever remained. My poor Jonathan, my little boy … was dying. I’d seen the symptoms before, in my wife, and I feared there was no way to stop it. Before going to Simon’s dinner, I’d sent my servant Jacob to summon the doctor. But he still hadn’t arrived. My chest tightened, my stomach quaked, and I almost forgot to breathe as I stared helplessly down at my son.
In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ll be posting the first several chapters. Last week I posted chapter 1. Today I give you the second chapter…
Anna—two months earlier
I imagined myself resting in the shade of my sandalwood tree, surrounded by soft waves of crocus flowers blanketing the rolling hills. Those flowers, gentle and free, distracted me from my ugly reality, distancing my thoughts when I didn’t want to be with my body. It was only temporary. Reality soon struck back.
The straw of my bed poked out from under the rumpled blanket, scratching my breasts. The stench of sweat, rotting teeth, and dead fish choked the air in my small hut. At least the man was quick about it, soon collapsing on top of me, gasping for breath. A moment later, he pushed himself off, grunted, and pulled down his tunic as he rose to his feet. I buried my face in the blanket, trying to fight off the tears.
I opened watery eyes as two small coins landed on the dirt floor—standard payment. Quietly, the fisherman peered around the blanket hanging in the doorway, again grunted, and crept away down the dark alley. He took less time than it takes me to shit, a typical visit for that customer. Easy money? Never.
They knew his love not by the written word of an apostle or the spoken word of a preacher, but by Jesus’ hand on their shoulder, or the thrill of his healing touch freeing them of a disease, along with his ever-present peace that filled them to overflowing.
We Called Him Yeshua is the story of Jesus as told from the perspective of these people—the ill and diseased, the deaf and blind, the worried and frightened, the overwhelmed and depressed—people who were in some ways just like you and me. And where we may know Jesus by his divinity, those who will tell this story knew him by his humanity. Their stories will show you both the Son of God, and the son of man.
As Anna, one of the lead characters, puts it: “It may be hard to feel close to the divine, but it’s easy to feel close to the human.”
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting chapters from my soon-to-be-published novel, We Called Him Yeshua. I’ll keep doing this until it’s released around the middle of March, 2020. Today I give you the first chapter…
Smoke from distant campfires drifted up the hill. Anna crept closer, the evening sun throwing her shadow along the path and onto his legs, his body hidden behind a boulder, his feet bare and splattered with dried blood. I hoped Anna wouldn’t see the rest of him, his throat slit, abdomen split open.
A raven glided down, flapped to a stop, and perched on the boulder, watching Anna inch closer. With knees trembling, eyes watering, and jaw quivering, she rested her hand on the boulder, trying to steady herself. The raven watched. Then, she leaned around the boulder and looked down. I could almost see the terror writhe inside her, constricting the tendons in her neck, contorting her face, overpowering her as fast as an avalanche roaring down a hill.
I feared for Anna—could she cope with more death? Could she survive mine?
In support of publishing my first novel in a couple of months, I’m now launching my new author website, at cjpenn.com. The site went live late yesterday. This is a big step on my writing path, and I’m a bit nervous about it.
Regarding my novel, I had previously posted a little something (link), and now I’d like to tell you a bit more.
We Called Him Yeshua
You know him by his Greek name, Jesus Christ. We see a lot in the Bible about Jesus’ story and his messages, as written by some of His closest disciples. But we rarely see the point of view of those outside the inner circle, whose lives Jesus changed with his acts of love and compassion. This soon-to-be-published novel tries to see Jesus and those times through the eyes of such people.
They knew Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua. (read more on my new website)
In the weeks leading up to the book launch, I’ll be posting sample chapters on my cjpenn.com site. Once the book is live on Amazon, I’ll post a notice for a promo week, where the Kindle version will be free, and the paperback will be priced as low as Amazon will allow. If you’d like me to notify you about these upcoming events, please follow the link (cjpenn.com) and sign up to receive book launch email notices.
Even though I’ve been rather silent on my blog the past few weeks, the rest of my life is loud with activities.
For example, I’ve been building a new website. I bought myself a crispy new URL… http://www.cjpenn.com. Don’t bother going there – it’s not live yet. But when it does go live, I’ll shut this website down. I’m hoping to make that cut-over in about a month.
I’m also in the middle of a crunch with my newest book, “Oh… Jesus!” I recently received the manuscript back from my editor. She filled it with lots of fantastic red mark-ups. I felt a bit of pain with my first glance at the large amount of suggested changes. But as I’ve worked through it, I’m now embracing all those edits. This book will be greatly improved thanks to my editor.
Here’s a random image for you. Consider an author is like a gardener. You plant a seed, water it, fertilize it, and nurture it to grow into a lushes bush. But not all the branches are even, and it’s a bit scraggly in places. The editor is like a hedge trimmer, who skillfully cuts out the scraggly parts and smoothes over the uneven patches.
Anyway, though I may be silent on my blog, there’s a ton of racket going on elsewhere in my life.
I’ve shaken up my purpose for writing… or one of my purposes anyway. My dream for a long time has been to make enough money with my books to quit my day job and be a fulltime author. Common dream. But I’m giving it away.
While in the midst of my current book project, I discovered a better purpose, a better dream. I no longer want to sell books. Instead, I want to give my books away for free, to as many people as possible. Why? Well, the detailed answer is within the pages of the book I’m about to start giving away. You can check that out if you like when the book is released in a few weeks – more about that on my Home page.
But the effects of this decision are unexpected, and really cool.
Oh, I had studied up on all the popular book marketing techniques intended to maximize sales. Growing my email list; building up my “tribe” of followers; asking followers for help in selecting book titles and cover designs (I like this idea); leveraging all forms of social media to draw people to my website and build my “platform” (I’m tired of that word). Anyway, it all made sense, but it was getting complicated and stressful.
But that stress is now gone – I gave it away. Yet if I really want to give my books away to as many people as possible, the techniques are similar to selling books. But by removing money from my purpose, it’s all a lot more fun.
I’m still asking people to give me their email address, but not so I can send them some funky newsletter and periodic sales pitches to buy a book. I never liked that newsletter idea – I don’t want to contribute to email inbox clutter. But I will send an email when I have a new book ready to give away. And I may send an email when I need help on a book project, like selecting a title or cover design.
Anyway, I’ve discovered that by removing one of the foundational purposes for my writing – selling books – there’s much more room for the real purpose: to help people discover a better experience of life in their growing intimate relationship with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. And, to help people see and accept that the solution to all of life’s problems is found in a personal relationship with the Spirit living within them.
Look, Jesus turned my life around. Without Him, I’d be miserable. Okay, not totally miserable. My wife is very special to me; I love her intensely, and her love gives me purpose. But Jesus’ love gives me a higher purpose, and a fuller life. I want to share that with other people – that’s why I write. NOT for money. This feels great!
Does it sometimes feel like stress is dragging you down into a pit of despair? Are you looking for a way to escape the stress pit? So was I. We’re not alone.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can escape the stress that holds you captive. I have a book that might help, and I’d like to give it to you… for free. The book is only a few weeks away from being finished. When it’s ready, I can send you a free pdf copy.
In this book, titled Oh… Jesus!, you can follow me on my journey to escape the stress pit that I fell into almost every day. Follow me, and you may find a way out of your self-dug stress pit. But know this: you can follow me on my journey, but I’m not the one who will pull you out of your stress pit. Only Jesus can do that. Please, give Him a chance.
Why am I giving this book away for free? Well, the complete answer is within the pages of the book. The brief answer is, because I believe it’s the right thing to do. And it feels good to give something away that just might help someone else. So if you’re looking for a way to escape your own stress pit, follow this link and sign up. When the book is done, I’ll send you an email with a link to go download it.
It’s finally almost ready to release… the book I’ve been promising (see Home page). It’s currently with my editor for final edits. And based on the questions she has so far, I’m getting excited about the improvements she’s going to make. By the way, my editor is my niece Johanna, helping me out while in the midst of her own publishing career.
I’m also excited about giving this book away for free to as many people as possible. Seeing that I’ve spent about six dedicated and sometimes difficult months working on this book, you may wonder why I would just give it away. Well, if you read it, you’ll then understand.
And I’m excited about the possibilities within the pages of this book. I hope and feel that it will help other people deal with the stress in their life. You see, this book is a record of my journey to escape stress and find a deep peace that I believed was out there, but I had a hard time seeing it.
Anyway, stay tuned. I hope to have this book available for download within the next two or three weeks. I have a feeling these weeks will be filled with a mixture of anxiety, more excitement, and lots of fun.
Zero days left in my personal challenge to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months. The first draft isn’t even done. Oh well. But now that the first draft is almost finished, I’m starting to think about what to do next. Of course I’ll immediately start on the second draft. But I’d also like to get this blog more involved. Here are some ideas for upcoming blog activities. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Do you have other cool ideas that you could share with me?
So what do you think? Thanks a lot, CJ
(October 18, 2015: day 93 down, 0 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)
I thought I had the whole book mapped out, the book I’m trying to write and publish in three months. The first drafts of 13 of the 15 chapters are in the bank, written and typed up. And the remaining chapters have detailed outlines and notes – all I need to do is put them into a readable flow. And it all feels good…
… Except for the ending. I recently accepted that it sucks. Oh, it’s a necessary and critical part of the story, but it’s a painful way to end. It’s a bad place to leave the reader. I know I’d hate being dropped in that place, without a well lit pathway out.
Well, I was driving to work recently, whining to myself about the end of the story. I don’t think I had yet seen and accepted that it sucked. So I prayed about it. And as with all the chapters in this story, God gave me the new ending, the best ending (in my opinion anyway). By the time I got to work, I had complete notes recorded on my iPhone voice memo app. I so love writing with God, even in my car.
You may have noticed I have only four days left in my 3-month challenge. And the first draft isn’t done. Oh well. Anyone out there have a similar writing experience?
(October 14, 2015: day 89 down, 4 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)
I love writing. Every time I sit down to work on the book I’m trying to write in three months, I have fun. Mainly because I’m not writing alone. I’m writing with the Holy Spirit.
But in working on this book, the message that’s coming into my mind and then onto the paper is really touching my heart. I believe this message can touch the hearts of other people too. So now I have a growing desire to make this book available to a lot of people. That’s where marketing comes in.
Marketing. This doesn’t sound as much fun as writing. But it could be, as long as I don’t do it alone. In fact, while praying about it on my drive to work yesterday, an idea came into my mind that seems fun to me.
It goes like this: I’m planning to self-publish this book on Amazon Kindle. I’ve always wanted to initially offer the book for free, mainly for all of you who have periodically checked in on the progress with my book challenge. As a way to thank you, I want to give you the book. I had then intended to later put some random price on it. After all, I could use the money.
But here’s the new fun idea: while the book is on Amazon for free, I will ask all of you who download and read it to leave a review. It’s a short book, so it won’t take long to read. Then, after there’s a good collection of reviews, I’ll see what the consensus is. If people perceive the book as poor, with little value, then it will not be worth putting a price on it. If people see value in the book, then I’ll basically set the price based on how may stars it gets – more stars equals higher price. In this way, those who first read and review the book, will set the price for the book. After all, it’s the readers opinion that counts, not mine.
What do you think of this idea? Does it sound fun to you?
(September 19, 2015: day 64 down, 29 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)
My hand-written first draft notes are all safely in my notebook, all except for the last chapter. But tonight is big not because of that, but because I started typing the first draft, beginning to make edits on the way. There is something special for me when I finally start typing a new book project. It feels more real, not like my barely legible hand-writing. I just finished typing chapter one and I’ll get started on chapter two as soon as I post this brief message.
This book project, driven along by my challenge to write and publish this book in three months, has really picked up momentum the past week. And I’d like to use this particular post to thank my co-writer… the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who lives within me, and probably within you too. He’s the real drive behind this project. His presence fills me with energy, excitement, and words. And I’m so grateful. Thanks
(September 9, 2015: day 55 down, 38 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)
Yesterday was a huge day of progress on the book I’m trying to write and publish in 3 months. I had to drive to San Jose for a work assignment – a comfy 2+ hour drive with typical commute traffic. So there and back, I was in my car for about 5 hours (traffic was a bit more than typical). This type of day can be boring and exhausting. But not yesterday. Using my iPhone audio memo app and with the ear-buds/microphone, I was able to record notes for the book while keeping both hands on the wheel (that comment is for those who tend to worry about me while I’m on these long commutes for work).
After 5 hours filled with frequent moments of high energy and excitement, I had recorded very detailed notes for the remaining seven chapters of the book. Once I transcribe these audio notes, the first draft will be complete!
But the best part is how this happened and what ended up coming out of my mouth. As I often do while driving, I’m in frequent conversation with the Holy Spirit of Jesus. I always find comfort in His presence. And yesterday, I believe He was giving me the words that I then spoke into my iPhone. And what great words – the book has taken an unexpected turn, and I’ve now added elements that will bring much more power to it’s message. That’s where my energy and excitement came from.
Dear Jesus, thank you so much for all you do, and for riding with me yesterday on my 5-hour commute.
(September 3, 2015: day 48 down, 45 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)
My 93-day window of time to write a book is well over a third of the way closed (or open, depending on how I choose to look at it). And I’m far from a third finished. At this point, panic is an option. Or at least rising stress – that would be my usual response. Yet while praying this morning, another window began to open for me, a window of understanding and trust.
What began to seep into my mind while praying is this: my three-month deadline is artificial and has no meaning beyond the meaning you or I may give it. My prideful self would choose to make the deadline a matter of success or failure. That’s where the stress and eventual panic would come in.
Or, I could choose to give no meaning to the deadline and just focus on trusting Jesus – trusting Him to show me the way to the completion of this book, with no concern for when that happens. The deadline then becomes only a fun way to help motivate myself to write this book, with no stress, only trust.
Guess which one I’ve chosen.
(August 24, 2015: day 40 down, 53 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)
This blog, and my personal book challenge, has been very quiet for the past few weeks. I’ve been traveling for three weeks, and though I had hoped to find lots of time for writing and blogging, there was actually very little. I made almost no progress on the book. But I’m not worried… yet.
You see, whenever I do find time to write, and as long as I am able to quiet my mind and focus on the Spirit of Jesus within me, the writing just happens. I focus on Jesus and the words seem to flow through my hand and into my notebook. This morning I effortlessly finished the first draft of chapter 4 – thirteen more chapters to go.
So now that I’m back home and into my familiar writing space and daily routine, it feels like I’m “back in the saddle again.” And I hope to continue to blog about my experience with this personal writing challenge. The highs and lows – they’re out there, waiting for me to reach them.
I think challenges are good in how they stretch us and help us grow. How might I grow through my book writing challenge? It will be fun to find out, and maybe at times a bit painful. Stay tuned.
(August 23, 2015: day 37 down, 56 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)
Miles away from home. I think I left my mind there. Well, my writing mind anyway.
I’m now one week into a three week trip. The only progress on the book challenge was a brief window of time on the airplane. After that, for the most part, the book has been forgotten. But I’m committed to my personal challenge to write and self-publish this book in three months. This trip, with all its distractions, certainly adds to the challenge.
Actually I think I’m grateful. I want to be grateful, for the added challenge pushes me to rely on God more, and myself less. As John the Baptist said in speaking of Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.” For me, that may be the best part of this book challenge.
(19 days down, 74 to go)
Thumbed in on my iPhone.
Work has been crazy busy. Yet my self-imposed challenge to write and publish a book in three months is still standing tall right in front of me. In my minds eye this project sometimes appears as a large person scowling at me, with their arms crossed and boldly proclaiming, “I’m waiting!”
Though this book is gradually growing within my mind and on the pages of my notebook, it’s often out of focus. My sites are mostly set on other things, like work. Work is demanding and ever hungry for all my time and thought… 24/7. So I have to fend off works hunger just to pry my gaze away long enough to let my mind focus on the book.
I get mini moments with the book. Just a few minutes at a time, it seems. But God is so good to me, because He honors my brief moments of focus and fills those seconds with more of the book – from His heart, to my mind, to my notebook. And I’m so grateful.
(July 29, 2015: day 12 down, 81 more to go, of The Challenge… to write a book, from concept to self-publish, in 3 months.)