Today I am pleased to welcome James Vogelzang to I & R. After 30 years in the investment management marketing business, James created Doing HIS Time Prison Ministry (www.doinghistime.org) a ministry to inmates, ex-offenders and their families. In 2000, he began work on a prison devotional. Still active in the ministry, he lives with his wife of 49 years in Santa Barbara, CA. Today, he is talking to us about his latest book, Come and See and he is giving away one print copy and one eBook!
James, welcome to Interviews & Reviews!
How long have you been writing?
I felt God calling me to write my first book entitled, Doing HIS Time;
Meditations and Prayers for Men and Women in Prison, in 2000. This book is a daily devotional written specifically for men and women in prison. Writing for prisoners has been more than a hobby since I started a prison ministry called Doing HIS Time, "Kneeling with those who've Stumbled," in 1999 after many years in the investment management marketing business. This book is written for inmates using their language, cultural setting, and slang so that they might relate to the book and read the message of God's grace and forgiveness in their lingo.
Nearly 600,000 copies of this devotional have been distributed, free of charge, in 48 countries and 17 languages, including URDU, distributed in the prisons and jails of Pakistan.
What inspired you to write Come and See?
It was during the initial months of the Covid-19 lock-downs that I felt the Holy Spirit urge me to write a book about the life-changing power of the love of Jesus. The Holy Spirit made clear to me that the book should be written for women of a certain age who have, through life's travails and chaos, lost their emotional center…their life's balance…and want it back. Women who have tried many remedies to recover their wholeness but who have been unsuccessful in accomplishing that goal.
The book looks at Jesus' interaction with three women in the Bible. It examines how their lives were changed by the power of unconditional love and acceptance. It goes on to explore and explain forgiveness and grace. The book is a winsome invitation, a safe place where women looking for a solution to life's turmoil can be introduced or reintroduced to the love of Jesus as the cure for their emotional distress.
I know the first question women will ask is - how can a man possibly write about a woman's emotional health when men rarely understand us? So, I'm assuming that is why you have a female co-author. Could you tell us about her and how you both came to write this book?
That issue, i.e., a man writing a book for women, was huge in my mind as I contemplated a call from the Holy Spirit to write such a book. When I asked the wife of a prominent Christian writer her opinion, she answered, "I will read books about women, written by a man, only if the man is at the top of his field." Her reply poked a finger into the sore spot of my insecurities about the assignment. It almost killed the book project before one word was on a page. But the impression of the Holy Spirit on me to write a book for women who had lost their balance was strong. I could not shake or deny that feeling. So, I began to write, trusting the leading of the Holy Spirit to make a book that would honor God and reach women.
It was after 50 pages of the manuscript that I felt the need to connect with and hire a female editor to go over the lines. The impulse to have female eyes and insights on the pages seemed right. A writer friend offered Elisa Stanford's name to me. He said she was an excellent writer and editor. Soon, it was obvious that Elisa was much more than an editor. Her published writings were terrific. At my urging, she began to write some of the introductory pages and to scan my work for things that would be seen by a female reader as male. Soon, I offered her Associate Author status, which elated her. Our combined talents made for a pithy, direct book relatable to women struggling with emotional vertigo. Her perspectives and my life/prison experiences have produced a book accepted by reviewers as successfully and articulately speaking to women.
How did you go from investment marketing to prison ministry?
Although raised in the church and attending parochial schools, I entered adulthood without a relationship with Jesus. A common story. With a marriage in trouble at age 36, I read Born Again by Charles W. Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries (PFM). It changed my heart. After about three months, my wife and I participated in a weekend seminar with PFM, which changed my life even further. I felt called to serve the Kingdom of God in prison, primarily to start as a volunteer with PFM. That lasted seven years. Then, I felt the Holy Spirit calling me out of the investment business to create a non-profit called Doing HIS Time Prison Ministry. Through that ministry, God tasked me to write a daily devotional specifically for women and men in prison.
That is awesome! What is the central theme of Come and See?
The central theme of Come and See is that in the eyes of Jesus, women have always had value, worth, and identity. Women no longer have to look to their careers, children, lovers, wealth, or status to find value. They will find that they no longer have to measure themselves with the measuring tape of inadequacy and constantly wonder if they are good enough, pretty enough, or successful enough to earn their value and worthiness.
Is there a message that you want your readers to grasp?
Yes, that grace and forgiveness are real and available to them through the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus. That Jesus' love and acceptance will redefine their image and priorities and restore the balance they seek to reclaim.
I have one final question - how did Wynonna Judd come to endorse your book?
In 2009, I connected with Wynonna through prison ministry. I had written her about her doing a benefit concert to help raise money for a prison project we were facilitating. In that letter, I enclosed a copy of the prison devotional. I did not know she had a heart for women in prison. I only felt led to write her after seeing her witness on stage during a concert we attended.
She loved the book and called my cell to let me know. She said she knew people in prison and wanted to pass copies along to her friends inside the walls. From there, our relationship grew. Over time, seeing her in concert and hanging out with her backstage after shows cemented our relationship. When Come and See was in final edits, I called her to see if she would like to read a pre-release copy of our book about women who had lost their balance in life. She was enthusiastic about reading it. She loved it and was very receptive to writing an endorsement for the cover, which she did, very smartly.
Since then, we have remained close, especially during this rough time (imbalance?) due to her mother's untimely passing.
Thank you for sharing with us today, James. You are a true example of what God can do if we step out in faith and obey the Holy Spirit's promptings.
And now, Dear Reader, if you want to win a copy of Come and See, fill out the form below! This giveaway will run until November 14, 2022. One winner will be chosen to receive a print copy and will be notified here, through email, and on Facebook.
Congratulations to Joy Isley! You have won a copy of Come and See.