Don Cyphers recently returned from the 2016 Word Conference in San Francisco, one stop along his book tour for I Must. The 70-page teaching tool provides pastors, ministers, and teachers of the Word with practical observations and lessons from I Kings 13 to fulfill their purpose. We caught up with the author and pastor this week to talk to him about what it’s really like to write a book, work with an editor, and fulfill a purpose in life.
Q: Don, we loved your real-life stories in helping us understand your lessons, especially the unfortunate story about cutting a lawn for barely any pay! How is this memory significant for you?
Oh, yes. That was a long time ago, but I remember it well. A friend of mine had offered me $30 to cut his yard. I trusted him, so I drove to his address. But when I got there, I saw that he owned about two acres! I thought, Wait a minute! I can’t cut all that with my regular push mower!
But he reminded me of my promise to cut his yard. So, I started.
As I was pushing, it got hotter and became rough. I tried to look at it as exercise. After a couple of hours, I took a break and went to a Dairy Queen. I wondered, How in the world can I do this? I wanted to leave.
But the Lord said, No, you finish that job. So, I went back. In all, it took me four hours to cut that yard.
When I finally got back home, my wife met me at the door with our baby in her arms. She told me we had run out of diapers and milk. I was hot and exhausted, and then this. Talk about frustrating!
But I’m glad I went back to cut that yard. You see, as I stood there, looking at my wife and my baby, I realized something. All I had was $30 in my pocket, but it was just enough to go to the store and get exactly what we needed.
I finished the job, and it allowed me to take care of my family that day. Forty years later, that’s still my consolation.
I Must is all about finishing what we start. Jesus said in Luke 2:49: “I must be about my father’s business.” He created man to stand up in the starting and in the finishing, no matter how big or small. You, me, society – everything is better when we stick to our promises. The devil will say, You’re a liar. You won’t make it. But that’s why God sent himself – to start the walk of salvation and finish it, for mankind’s sake.
What was the most unexpected part of writing your book?
Yep. Unless you’re a genius and can do fast work, it can’t be done overnight. Especially when you’re dealing with God. It’s meticulous, precise, grinding. And then you have to work with the people who read it. I thank God for my editor, Bradley.
Q: Ah, we’re fans of W. Bradley Wright with The Neuvale Group. What was it like to work with an editor?
Bradley added things here and there, came up with suggestions, and took it to others to look at. He was the one to steer and say, I think we need to go this way or that way. Besides those basics, there were two main things we dealt with.
The first was our age difference: I’ll be 60 years old this year; Brad is 28 years old. I’d put words on paper that he couldn’t relate to because of this difference. For example, I say, “Icebox.” He says, “Fridge.” He helped me relate to a younger generation.
The second was our differences in Biblical understanding. We wrestled with some things so that we could make it all come together for the book. What was so amazing was that he was going through a spiritual change during this process. He was living what he was reading, and God was showing him things spiritually, giving him understanding. And for me, I thought I’d studied, but the more I dug, the more I learned.
For both of these reasons, we really worked well together and balanced each other out. We were like Martin and Lewis. Freak and Frack. When you get a combination like this, you run with it.
Q: Our formatter and graphic designer, Elena Reznikova, laid out your custom cover art, which was created by artist Robert Jones. Tell us about its significance.
A while back, a friend bought me a picture of golden gates. I fell in love with it and have it hanging behind my pulpit. So when the time came to come up with a cover design, I contacted the artist, Robert, who lives near me in the Austin/San Marcos area.
I explained to Robert that the book is about trying to reach the end of a mission. The road is good but troubled and winding, like a snake, and the Devil will try to stop us from getting there. Robert painted this design for the book, and he even gave me a small drawing of it to frame.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for someone who is thinking about writing a book?
I have two pieces of advice.
First, you have to make a commitment. Many people talk about writing a book, but few actually see it to the end. Some people are shocked when they find out my book is published.
Second, don’t have so much pride that you won’t ask someone for help or suggestions.
Q: That’s great advice! What’s next for you?
I hope to travel the world, if it’s God’s will. Traveling is educational – it stretches the mind. I want to reach more people through my book. I’ve had people tell me, “I’ve preached I Kings 13, and I’ve talked about I Kings 13, but I’ve never seen it the way you put it to paper.”
It was an absolute pleasure to work with Don and Bradley in publishing I Must. We welcome you to contact Don if you’d like to order a copy of his book, to schedule a speaking engagement or book signing, or to visit his church, Strait Gate Fellowship Baptist Church in Elgin, Texas.
Ella Hearrean Ritchie is the owner of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that delivers quality, integrity, and reliability to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out the website for more information.