Friday, January 13, 2012

James H. Pence--Trusting God In Tragedy

This week's guest on Everyone's Story is author James H. Pence, or Jim, as he prefers. Jim caught my attention when I read his account on another blog of how God reached out to two men, Jim, at a seemingly crossroad in his life, and Terry Caffey, a man who just lost his family in a tragedy too cruel to even imagine. I contacted Jim and he graciously accepted my invitation to share this fascinating story, that though sad, is uplifting and inspiring.

Jim is graciously giving away his novel BLIND SIGHT to one randomly chosen commenter. Please either include your email within the comment or email me privately with your email address. As always, I'd appreciate if you would Follow this blog.

You never know… by James H. Pence

Are you discouraged? Keep writing. 
You never know what God might do with your words.
In the late ‘90s I wrote Blind Sight, a suspense novel about a man who was struggling with God’s goodness in tragedy. Near the end of the book my protagonist, a man who lost his wife and two children in a car accident, understands that God is good even when circumstances are not.
Like all new authors, when Blind Sight was released in 2003 I had dreams of a bestseller. But that wasn’t to be. The book’s sales were mediocre at best and, when my second royalty statement showed massive returns—and a large deficit—I was crushed.
I pouted for a few weeks, but eventually realized that I was being selfish. Finally I prayed, “Lord, I wrote this book for you and I’m giving it back to you. If you’ll use it in even one life, I’ll be happy.”
Time passed and Blind Sight was consigned to the ranks of out-of-print books.
But God wasn’t finished with it.
The page from Blind Sight
On March 1, 2008, a terrible tragedy happened not far from where I live. Two men broke into the home of Terry and Penny Caffey. They shot Terry, Penny, and their two sons. Then they set the house on fire. Even though he’d been shot five times at point blank range, Terry survived and managed to escape the burning house. Terry’s wife and sons died. Even worse, his teenage daughter Erin was implicated in the crime.

Although Terry was a Christian, he struggled deeply in the aftermath of the tragedy. He couldn’t understand why God took his family or why He made him go on living. 
Jim Pence (left) and Terry Caffey (right)

About six weeks after the murders, Terry went back to his property to “have it out with God.” He stood on the ashes of his house and cried out, “God why did you take my family? I need an answer and I need it today.”

At that moment, he saw a brown, scorched piece of paper leaning against a tree. Terry picked it up.
It was a single page from my novel. But it wasn’t just any page. It was the page where my protagonist—a man who has lost a wife and two children—comes to grips with God’s sovereignty in his loss.
The first words on the page were, “I couldn’t understand why You would take my family and leave me to struggle along without them…but I do believe You’re sovereign. You’re in control.”
God used the words on that burned page to turn Terry Caffey’s life around. He forgave his daughter and the others who were involved in the murders, and even lobbied to have the death penalty taken off and now he travels all over the country sharing an incredible story of grace and forgiveness. 

God also used that page to change the direction of my writing.
In January of 2009, Terry asked me to help him write a book that would tell his story. 
I hadn’t written or published in four years and collaboration was not in my long-term plans. However, because I wanted to encourage Terry, I agreed to help him write a book proposal. 
Because of the intense media interest in Terry’s story, Tyndale snapped up the proposal and put the book on an accelerated publication schedule. We signed a contract in March of ’09 and the book was set for a September release. 
I had to write it in twelve weeks.
The accelerated writing schedule was probably a good thing, because I didn’t have the time to give in to sheer panic. I’d never collaborated before and I had no earthly idea how to go about it. But it was a door that God had opened, and so I trusted Him for the wisdom. 
I dusted off my little digital voice recorder and began interviewing Terry. Then I worked at outlining the book, selecting the stories that would go into it, even using my fiction-writing skills to lay out a plot-line. 
As I worked with Terry and wrote what would become Terror by Night, I began to notice something unexpected.
I was enjoying myself immensely.
I love telling stories, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy helping other people tell their stories. 
And so now I happily call myself a collaborator. I spent most of 2011 writing a book about Nate Lytle, a young surfer who made a miraculous recovery from a massive traumatic brain injury. I also collaborated on a novella with bestselling author Stephen Arterburn. And I’ve got proposals in the works for two more collaborations, one fiction and the other nonfiction.
I never intended to be a collaborator.
But God led me through an unexpected door and down an unplanned path. And in doing so, He changed the direction of my writing ministry. 
Has God placed some unexpected doors or unplanned paths before you? I hope that in 2012 you’ll take a chance and go through them.
You never know what God might do.
“A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps,” (Proverbs 16:9, NET Bible).  
Do you have an experience of God acting His will in your life? Jim would enjoy hearing from you.

Author Bio:
 James H. (Jim) Pence is a published author, an accomplished singer and speaker, a performance chalk artist, and in his spare time he teaches karate, writing and art to home-schooled children. Jim, a Renaissance man, prefers to be known simply as a storyteller and follower of Jesus Christ. Jim turned to writing in 1988 as a helpful means of expression after the death of his baby daughter Michelle. 

A versatile writer, Jim has been published in both fiction and nonfiction. He is the author of Blind Sight (Tyndale, 2003), a suspense/thriller set in mind-control cults. His second novel, The Angel (Kregel, 2006), is set against the backdrop of the euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide movements.

Jim moved into collaboration and narrative nonfiction with Terror by Night (Co-authored with TerryCaffey, Tyndale, 2009), and collaborated with bestselling author Stephen Arterburn on a book titled The Encounter: Sometimes God Has to Intervene (Thomas Nelson, Nov. 2011). 

Also a talented chalk artist, vocalist, and speaker, Jim has shared Christ across the United States through music and art. Jim often takes his art and music into prisons, where he is able to share the grace of Christ with an often forgotten and rejected people. 

He and his wife Laurel recently celebrated their thirty-first wedding anniversary. They live on six acres northeast of Dallas, Texas, and have two grown children and a granddaughter.

Contact Information:

For Jim:
Web site –
Facebook Page –
Twitter -- @jameshpence
Amazon Author Page –

For Terry Caffey:
Web site –
Facebook – Terry Caffey


  1. When I heard this story first, it was surrounded by people who know the family and are called friends. The second time was at a different church and there were more friends. Seems Terry was making an impact before all of these things happened. Now he is blessed with the opportunity to be able to reach out to others. We love you brother. May God continue to bless you.


    1. Thanks, Don. I know Terry appreciates your prayers as he continues to share what God has done in his life.

  2. Don, welcome to Everyone's Story. Exactly for the reasons you've said is why I don't believe in coincidence... there is something way more powerful guiding us all.

  3. What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing, Jim, Terry, and Elaine. I'm in awe of what God can do (again:).

    1. Thanks, Shellie. We serve an awesome God, don't we?

  4. This is such an awesome reminder of how God works, and an inspiring story for writers and non-writers. Thanks, Elaine!

  5. Beautiful story. Only God could weave all those details together and bring something good out of it.

    1. Thank you, Cynthia. It's wonderful how God takes the shattered fragments of our lives and makes something beautiful out of them.

  6. Sara TribbeyJanuary 14, 2012

    Wow!! What an incredible story! I'm so pleased to hear how God has proven His sovereignty in so many lives, even character's lives, around you! Having recently become aware myself of just how truly sovereign God is, this was an inspiring and encouraging account. Thank you so much for sharing, allowing God to change directions in your life, and continuing to produce writing that hares this sovereignty with others! ~Tribbs (

  7. Thanks for the visit, Shellie, Sandra, Cynthia, and Sara. It's stories like this that make us hold on. I'm just thankful that God is holding onto my hand!

  8. wow, what an inspiring story, and what an example of God's leading. I love how He writes our stories so much better than we could ever imagine. I was just feeling a bit discouraged about writing today, so this post was exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks for sharing {and thanks for hosting, Elaine}.

  9. Thank you to all my visitors this past week. Wasn't Jim's story full of inspiration and hope, despite the sadness attached to it? Please be sure to read the short interview I've posted today on Jim.

    The winner of Jim's novel BLIND SIGHT is Sandra Ardoin. Jim & I will be in touch with you shortly for arrangements of getting the book to you. Happy reading.

    ♥ Elaine

  10. Jim, heartfelt thanks for being my guest this past week, and for your patience regarding the posting of your blog segment. I'm thankful you've shared this inspirational story. I wish you continued success with all of your collaborations with God, whether in writing or other avenues.

    And thank you for your book giveaway.

    ♥ Elaine


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