Welcome, Tez! Please tell us about your book Debriefing: Meditations of Hope for Those Who Protect and Serve.
The role of first responders is stressful. But God is with them, both in remarkable events and insignificant moments of their job and home life. Debriefing helps first responders focus on the Lord and the vital position God has placed them, so they can approach the day encouraged and filled with hope.
That sounds fantastic! What inspired you to write this book?
Working with cops and being in law enforcement previously, I’ve seen firsthand how difficult a job it is. You’re often dealing with the worst of humanity. It hardens you. You begin not even trusting the good people, decent citizens, your own family. Plus, everyone is watching, waiting for you to mess up, filming you. You’re just trying to protect the community…keep society safe…but you’re getting spit on. It’s hard to feel encouraged and proud of what you do when no one appreciates your sacrifice. First responders have one of the highest percentages of addiction, divorce and suicide. That’s what inspired this book.
Thank you for meeting that huge need. Was there anything that surprised you during the writing of your book?
At the onset, I wasn’t sure if the idea would fly. A book of stories…that’s nice…but for what purpose? What if the stories I received couldn’t bridge to Scripture—to hope? I was amazed at how the Lord guided me to biblical truth and encouragement. Every time I received a story from a firefighter, correction officer, 911 operator, FBI personnel, whoever…God would bring a verse to mind and I’d look it up to make sure I was recalling it correctly—that it could be used in context. It was comforting to know He was guiding me to use His Word to speak into the lives of public servants everywhere.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I really want readers to see God’s hand in their daily life, in their occupation. What they are doing is a special calling and God has them there to make a difference. If they can understand God created them for that difficult job, to keep others safe and save lives—then hopefully that encouragement will keep them from burning out or quitting like so many are doing these days.
What’s your favorite section in this book?
I think it’s the portions at the end of each chapter that inspire a call to action. After each story, readers have a moment to dispatch (be sent) to Scripture, then to investigate (explore) action points for what’s next, and finally to debrief (pray).
How do you share Christ in your writing?
This is definitely a gift book that speaks more to readers who believe in God’s existence. I try not to push that message down their throat, but there’s no denying where I stand as an author—that we need Jesus and without him, the job they are doing won’t be nearly as effective without Christ in charge. Their eternal impact on others and their community will be 1000% more effective when walking in obedience to the Lord. And…yes, I have one particular chapter that explains the simple gospel message in a relatable way to first responders who might be considering Christ but haven’t made the leap yet.
What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?
Easy. The recurring theme is that God is speaking to us all…the…time! In the mundane and the remarkable. You just need to develop your eyes and ears to hear Him. We pass by things all day long and rush through conversations and incidents that speak of God’s goodness, protection, commands, and precepts. I love writing about those and helping others learn how to tune into those God moments.
I love it! When did you first recognize God’s call to write for Him?
I started writing poetry and memoirs as a young boy. Even got published in a local newspaper a few times. It was awful writing…lots of teen angst and navel-gazing. But as a young adult I left that to pursue Christian theater and direct plays and musicals for a couple large churches, even traveling with some big names in the contemporary Christian music scene in the ’90s. But God called me back into writing in the early 2000s when I became a missionary journalist. I learned to love words and how they could tell stories and help change lives.
Tell us about your most touching moment with a reader.
Six years ago, I was doing a live radio interview for one of my books, The Single Dad Detour. It’s a survival guide for single dads. I used to be one. A man calls in who was struggling after two failed marriages and his second time around raising kids alone. He asked me for advice and as I tried to encourage him, the Holy Spirit came over me and I started crying…on air…so crazy. I had so much God was giving me to speak into him. I pulled myself together and asked him to hold on the line so I could connect with him more right after the show. I did and we exchanged numbers. We are dear friends to this day. We’ve never met face to face yet. But we call or text each other monthly to chat and pray for each other. I love that guy.
What a great story! Do you have any talents aside from storytelling?
I’ve done quite a bit of acting. I enjoy painting with watercolor or acrylics. I used to sing on a worship team and did a few solos. I always wished I could have learned to play guitar. Maybe it’s not too late…one day.
Do you have a “day job” or a previous career? Does it influence what or how you write?
I’m a full-time missionary along with my wife. We’ve lived overseas for a while and have visited over 20 countries on short-term mission trips. It definitely influences my writing. First, because I’m a communications specialist with the missionary organization I work for, I get to write about changed lives. It’s an amazing job. Second, because I get to go places and see things others normally wouldn’t. Which makes for a wealth of storytelling resources. It’s a rewarding job. I feel like I’m making a difference in this world for Jesus.
With everything going on in your life, how do you stay disciplined and meet your deadlines?
I haven’t missed a deadline yet, in 20 years. I think that’s because I like to check off boxes and I find joy in closure. So, the sooner I can get a writing assignment completed and send it off, the sooner I can relax and enjoy other things. I try to use charts and appointment reminders for all my freelancing. If I’m not organized I’m in trouble.
Charts and reminders and checkboxes—you’re speaking my language! So, what are you working on now? Please tell us about your next project.
Working on a book for young adults learning how to survive on their own, A Survival Guide for Young Adult Christians: 500 Modern Proverbs, Suggestions, and Tips for Adulting.