Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck10 Minutes

CVB: I love the concept of this book. How did you decide to write it?

Jay Payleitner: This little book came out, ’52 Things Kids Need From a Dad.’ That’s my best seller. It just happened to work. Later, I signed a contract with Harvest House for a book called ‘52 Things You Need to Do For Yourself.’ After a while, the publisher came back and said, “That title is too self-serving. It sounds too selfish.” Now, the content wouldn’t have been. But they said, “We need to find it another title for that book.” So we came up with the title, ‘What If God Wrote Your Bucket List : 52 Things You Don’t Want to Miss.’

So this book wasn’t inspired by the movie at all. It was inspired by the idea that we need to do things for ourselves before we die. That led to ‘What if God Wrote Your To-Do List?’ This book deals with considering great truths we need to understand before we die. We need to understand that there is evil in the world; that angels do exist; that you got to clean out some crud from your life, because we all have crud in our lives.

We may need to reconsider those rules carved in stone. You know people say, “God is love.” Well, God is love, but God is also justice, and God is righteousness.

CVB: And He wouldn’t be justice unless He was love.

Jay: Yes. So there you go. I write short books because I’ve written thousands of radio scripts. I get an idea, I hook them, I tell them the story, then get out of there. Then I do that 52 times and that’s a book. That’s my sweet spot, writing the short chapters.

The content of ‘What if God Wrote Your To-Do List?’ is stuff that that’s going to come across your desk or your consciousness in the next week or so – maybe even today. There are things like loving your wife or grappling with sin. You’re going to get a chance to shine today, because that’s how we draw people to Christ. You’re also going to get sideswiped today. Someone’s going to come rushing past you with all kinds of crud and damaging stuff, and you’ll need to get out of the way of that.

CVB: What are some of the stories that have come back to you from people who have read your books?

Jay: I get more feedback from my relational books. I have many emails from wives who say, “My husband doesn’t read books, but he read your book, Jay, because it’s short and you can easily get through it.”

CVB: One of your quick tips is “Take note of any quick fix.” When I was a kid, I went through almost two years of speech therapy and you experienced a similar thing.

Jay: At the parent teacher conferences my parents would hear, “Oh, Jay doesn’t say much, but when he says something it’s worth listening to.” So my sister and I would go every year to get our speech therapy. She couldn’t say her S’s and I couldn’t say my R’s. In seventh grade I met with a speech therapist. The very first moment she walked in and we said a few words. She said, “Try this. When you say ‘R’, like the word, just put your tongue up against the rough of your mouth in a curve.” And it was fixed click. Right?

Everybody carries around these little burdens about stuff that they think they’re not good at, so they take a step back from possibilities. If that’s something you couldn’t do for awhile, or refused to do, maybe when God fixes that you can say, “That’s my ministry.” I think of some of the biblical characters. The shortest guy in the new Testament climbed a tree. That’s how he overcomes that. You’ve got to overcome these things. You have to figure it out.

CVB: You also talk about the blessing in being fired.

Jay: My first job out of college was selling photocopiers for AB Dick. I was a terrible salesman. I didn’t mind the cold calling – I can cold call all day long. I just didn’t want to do the follow up to close the deal. I didn’t get fired there, but I knew I had to leave.

Then I sold law books to corporate attorneys, which was very interesting. When you’re in sales, you have to talk to people and gather information as to what their needs are. I was terrible at this and I was about to get fired.

At the same time my faith was growing. Another story I tell is my wife’s side of the story. We had our first house and we were two months behind in our mortgage. Overall, we were in a good place. We love each other. We had a good church. We loved our kids and they were healthy. But I remember standing in the kitchen doorway and looking at my wife and two sons, who were playing on the threadbare carpet. The cold wind was coming through the door and the walls and she said, “Jay, I don’t have faith in you anymore.”

So I put that on a three by five card and tacked it above my desk in my office. And she was right. I didn’t have faith in myself anymore. I was a sharp, good looking, handsome, smart guy, but I was just not using my gifts.

My wife didn’t take the kids and race home to grandma’s house. She didn’t yell at me. She was just broken with me. She joined me in that pit and in that crud. We started talking more about hopes and dreams. We started praying together more. Then six months later, I landed my first job in advertising. I was able to use my creative gifts, along with some of the marketing and sales stuff I picked up along the way.

One take away from that story is that God uses it all. The other is that when your husband’s hurting, or when your wife’s hurting and down in that pit, you need to jump down there and join them. Because it takes both of your scrapping, and crawling, and pushing, and helping in letting God be part of that. So that’s also part of coming out of the crowd and putting your feet on the rock.

I didn’t get fired from either sales job, but I was about to. Then in my first job in advertising, at six months they let me go because of a loss in business. And that was crushing. But I had been to other agencies that said, “Well, Jay, we don’t hire first-time writers,” and I wasn’t anymore. So I went back to that place and they hired me with a $10,000 raise. So I was there for this for years and I did TV spots with Mike Ditka for Midway Airlines. I did TV spots for Kroger and other companies.

Then I got fired on my birthday from that company and ended up at a little Christian ad agency in Wheaton, Illinois. Before I knew it I was producing Josh McDowell on the radio, but I didn’t know who Josh was.

CVB: That’s great. I love it.

Jay: I produced Josh’s program for 14 years. So I can look back and see how God used all those things –the crummy jobs, my major in college, then all through life, God used those things so I could tell stories to others.

Order your copy of What If God Wrote Your To-Do List?: 52 Ways to Make the Most of Every Day by Jay Payleitner