Joab Black and his wife Sarah overcame the worst of pioneer hardships in order to establish a prosperous farm in Alberta, Canada. But those challenges never prepared them for the tragedy they now faced—a staggering loss and intense pain causing them to doubt everything they had ever believed. In the midst of their sorrow, even their closest friends interpret their sufferings as a result of God’s judgment. Has God abandoned them?
Sergeant Dixon, the local North West Mounted Police officer, investigates the events leading to the Blacks’ plight. While his work gives them a ray of hope, his probing into the activities of a certain stranger possibly connected to the case may cost him his job and even his life.
Tell us about your journey to publication.
My first short stories began in elementary school, with my teachers as the villains and my friends as the heroes, but serious writing didn’t begin until a former boss asked me to be a key-note speaker at a conference almost twenty years ago. My first nonfiction book evolved from my notes for that conference. Prior to that I wrote short stories in college, puppet plays for mission trips, stories for chapels and campfires at camps, and short novels for my niece and nephew.
I became serious about writing fiction around 2007 and Joab’s Fire was my testing ground. I learned a lot writing this book.
However, God didn’t take me down the normal path to publication. I see books as tools for the work God calls us to do: share the Gospel, teach His word, and disciple. With the concept of writing as a ministry pushing me, I saw the need to put my writing under the authority of my church, where any ministry should be—an extension of the local church. I approached my pastor and submitted my writing ministry to my church. This changed the dynamics. No longer was my work to be governed by the whims of publishers and the market, but by Godly counsel founded upon Biblical principles and truths.
At first, I thought I could work through traditional publishing. I took that route, experienced rejection and the consternation that comes when a contract is offered to you, but isn’t right for you. I turned down opportunities, experiencing the discomfort of viewing a path that was not God’s choice.
Not until January of this year did I clearly understand that I was not to do traditional publishing. Why? Because I needed full control over my projects while remaining accountable to my church. Instead of the editors of traditional publishers being the gatekeeper of my work, my church was to be that and to measure my work against the whole counsel of God, i.e. all of Scripture. Again, the founding principle being books are merely instruments of God’s ministry. God uses people to spread the Gospel, to teach, to disciple. Books are instruments people can use to do these things, but without people, books are nothing but empty and useless vessels.
What inspired Joab’s Fire?
When I was 19 I was very ill with allergies and chemical intolerances. One night after a bout of vomiting, I sat on the floor between the toilet and the tub and asked God why? Almost as clear as an audible voice I heard Him say, read Job.
I did as He said and was truly blessed. God is in control. He loves me, and the more I read Job, the more I appreciate this. Of late, I see Him reminding me that He'll do anything to ensure my close relationship with Him...even allow hardships into my life.
There are many wonderful verses in the Bible that testify to God's provision in trials. I look at Paul's life, and I see someone who chose to suffer like Jesus and rejoiced in that suffering because it drew him closer to his Saviour. Paul wanted that for his disciples. Here's what he wrote to the church in Colosse:
"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long suffering;" Col 1:9-11
Paul didn't pray for them to not suffer. He didn't pray that they'd gain wealth or physical health or escape hardships. Instead, this man who knew great sufferings, prayed what he discovered was of far greater value than worldly possession, the knowledge of God.
Just like Job, who said when his ordeal was over, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee." Job 42:5
We know that Job was a Godly man who feared the Lord. He even had all the pat answers to trials, but when it was over, he realized what he thought he knew of God, he didn't. When he repented of his assumptions, God blessed the latter end of Job's life more than his beginnings. Is that an awesome and merciful God?
In my own life each trial has deepened my understanding and love of God. I would not want to substitute that knowledge for pain-free living. I'm glad He thunks me on the head now and again to remind me that I don't know everything there is to know about Him. And each time I discover a new depth of His love and abundant mercies.
How long have you been writing?
Since I could write words. With the intention of publication, since 1996.
What are you currently working on?
I just received from my copy editor edits on my booklet, A Week of Faith more Precious than Gold. This booklet contains seven short stories with devotionals challenging the reader to purify his faith. Most of the stories reflect historical situations where true believers endured persecution for their faith.
What are you reading right now?
I am reading the ARC for Sandi Rog’s next book, Yahshua’s Bridge.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I write in the corner of our bedroom where my laptop rests on a board across four shelves. I love this corner of my home where I can escape to other worlds.
What is your favorite character trait to write about?
Faithful, or more specifically, about a person whose faith is challenged to the point of great sacrifice and chooses to remain faithful to God, no matter the cost.
What is your favorite time of the year?
This is a difficult question. I enjoy summer because of the time I can have with my family and because I enjoy being outside. I enjoy winter because I enjoy curling up in front of a warm fire with a good book. I enjoy spring because I love to garden, and spring stirs up my passion for gardens. I enjoy the fall because it is a reflective time and a time to witness some of God’s most creative artwork.
If you could travel back in time when and where would you go?
Back to Jerusalem to see Jesus. I want to sit at His feet and learn from Him, see Him in action, and absorb all that He is. Unfortunately, I’m afraid my “task-oriented” behavior would compel me to be more like Martha than Mary and I would be so busy trying to serve Him that I would fail to enjoy Him.
If you could tell your readers anything, what would it be?
Keep your eye on eternity. If you are saved, your hope rests in the eternal life you will have with Jesus. If you don’t know what your eternity will be, then read John 3, Romans 10, and as much Scripture as you can to learn what God says about your eternity. But to summarize what you can learn from Scripture:
• Believe on Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God
• Call on Him to save you from your sins and give you eternal life
• Ask for His forgiveness
• Accept the gift of salvation He offers through His death (payment for your sins), burial and resurrection.
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