Interesting article from the Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2016, about the polio scourge that swept me along with it at age six.
This interview was published in the Lone Star Literary Life Book Blog Tour, May 2016
Why did you choose to write a prayer book?
I did not choose to write a prayer book. I believe God chose me to do so. It happened in this way. Last year in prayer, I heard a voice saying: “Write a book of prayer to help others save their marriages. Name it Prayerful Passages.”
With continued and heartfelt prayer, I started writing Prayerful Passages. I believe it is a life-affirming resource for married couples in saving and preserving the sacrament of marriage. And if the marriage cannot be saved, to help them in divorce. My prayer is that this small booklet will become an instrument of God’s grace in peoples’ lives.
What is the hardest part of writing prayers?
The hardest part in writing the prayers was to use words that accomplish a dual mission: to ask for God’s help, but also to invoke a careful and thoughtful consideration ,in the person saying the prayers, of his/her part in creating the problem which put the marriage at risk. I believe that God wants His children to know that problems unsolved in one relationship are often taken to the next one. That’s part of why so many of the prayers speak of the healing of both spouses through God’s grace.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoyed most taking the wisdom distilled from two sources, my own paralysis due to polio and my calling as a family law attorney, then embedding that wisdom in the prayers. t Of course, it is my fervent hope that this same wisdom will pass to others t as they say the prayers. When I was younger, I perceived my polio to be the heaviest burden imaginable and somewhat of a curse. Yet, those dark times gave me so many of God’s blessings, including these prayers. May these prayers be a blessing to married persons from what seemed to me years ago to be the curse of polio.
How can readers access additional prayers for problem marriages?
Readers can access additional prayers for problem marriages by first reading and saying the prayers in my book. When one prays to God, His answers will come, but not only His answers. I believe the words of a person’s own prayers will come too. They will arise from that person’s heart. In Prayerful Passages, I have left blank pages for the reader to write his/her own prayers. Readers need to know there is no such thing as a perfect prayer…only one perfect and loving God.
In addition to, “Use Prayerful Passages: Asking God’s Help in Reconciliation, Separation, and Divorce”, what is a single piece of advice you would give those thinking about separation and divorce?
My single piece of advice to those thinking about reconciliation, separation, or divorce is to use prayer every step of the way. Prayerful and well developed souls are secure in their faith, empathetic, compassionate, humble, and not prone to blaming others. These souls surrender their anger, resentments, and weaknesses to God. These qualities are most helpful in marriage and lead to happiness and satisfaction in the life God gave us as a blessing.
What is your favorite prayer book?
My favorite prayer book was given to me when I was six by Rev. Skarden Daubert, an Episcopal priest, while I was quarantined with polio at Hedgecroft Hospital in Houston, Texas. I held that little red book in my weakened hands every day for the better part of a year in the hospital. When I held that book I could almost feel the hands of Christ holding mine. It was the Book of Common Prayer.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I was in the eighth grade.
What influences the type of prayers that you write? Spiritual influence? Literary influence?
The influences that brought these prayers together in book form are threefold. First, was my mother’s example of bedtime prayer including the Lord’s Prayer that we said on our knees together.. Then there was the participation in the community of care at St. Francis Episcopal Church-Houston with attending weekly church services, helping the less fortunate, and hearing the choir sing songs of joy and praise. Lastly, the prayers were written to reflect the beauty, light, and poetic Grace of the written word. I wanted the reader’s heart to be touched and opened to hear the answers from God which will surely come after prayer.
What type of books do you read in your free time?
I read books which open the senses of my heart to wonder, mystery, gratefulness, and the sacredness of life. A grateful heart is a happy, creative, and loving heart. I believe that God’s main purpose is for each of us is to love and be open to love from others.
What author would you most like to emulate and why?
I would like to emulate Madeline L’Engle because she writes in a beautiful voice and calls the reader to dive into the mystery and wonder of faith in God.
You started as a writer later in life. What advice do you have for readers who are thinking of writing a spiritual book?
Trust, develop, and express your talents, which are God’s gifts to you. Do not let fear of rejection drown the voice of the words God has placed on your pen and in your heart. This advice applies to a writer at any age. I believe that God is pleased when that inner voice is expressed and shared with others by a writer with a creative, kind, and caring soul to honor the Author of Us All.
What prayer books are in your future?
My next writing project is a book of prayers for the grieving heart. Grieving for the loss of loved ones, friends, creatures great and small, the loss of the life we planned as we live the life God wants for us. As Jesus Christ Himself said as He was dying on the cross: “Father, not my will, but thine be done.”
What person in your life influences your work as a writer the most? Why?
Without question, my wife Dorothy. We were married nearly 44 years ago. After polio, paralysis, surgical scars and deformity, I thought that there might be no one on earth who could love me and marry me. Dorothy has loved me as a man and husband, as if I was as able- bodied and as worthy of marriage as anyone else. She has supported me in developing all aspects of my life. She has unselfishly given me the time and space to express my talents. Watching her love of reading has caused me to love to writing. That is why the book is dedicated to her.. Our relationship is a shining example of what is possible because of love.
How did your amazing family network influence your development as a writer? As a successful attorney? As a family man?
I lived in a family gathering, a rural community on the northwest outskirts of Houston, called Emmottville. I was surrounded by a large extended family which sheltered me as did the moss-covered live oaks which circled PawPaw’s homestead. Eighteen aunts and uncles and 45 first cousins, lived on the land. A land and family larger than Walton’s Mountain.
The encouragement and stability of the Emmott clan gave me the security to face the challenges polio placed before me. To endure the losses polio inevitably left behind. In the life of that family there were so many stories I could proudly write about. Sharing them will mean helping others learn what I learned and loved growing up there. In addition to the security and stability, my belief that the bad would somehow be turned into good by God was anchored in my parents’ worship and prayer life. Mother let me know I was special to God despite my feeling of awkwardness among my peers. I felt good as an Emmott. I felt great as a child of God. The love I received is what I strive to share every day with others in family, in my calling, and now as a writer, to the Author of Creation.
You have had polio since the age of six. What has been its most negative influence on your life and what it’s most positive?
The most negative influence has been the regret that I could not physically care for others the way they cared for me. This is especially true for my mother, Lucile, who spent the best of her younger years tending to me without one word of complaint. From bedpans to urinals, to feeding, dressing, and clothing me, to providing hours of physical therapy and countless other things so that I might become the best parts of me which remained after polio. In later life, she had a series of strokes. I ached because I could not do more for her other than holding her hands, embracing her, kissing her and saying prayers together. She died five years ago. I gave her up to the Lord that she had so unfailingly served, and I daily ask the same God to receive my regrets as well.
The most positive aspect of polio is the same gift and lesson of the Easter story: Easter Sunday follows Good Friday. That Christ’s death preceded His Resurrection. For me, my life in Christ did not end with polio. It began.
If not answered above, how has polio influenced your development was a writer?
Polio was, and is, the canvas of darkness and the medium to see, study, appreciate. It is my way to be mindful of the Light of Christ and the presence of angels in my life. I could never have authored a book of prayer without suffering and receiving the gift of God’s grace.
What is your favorite social/recreational activity?
My favorite activity is to be near the water or in the woods to see the wonder and diverse beauty God created for humankind. Fishing for rainbow trout on the White River or for speckled trout near Matagorda Bay. In these simple activities, the overstimulation of my daily life takes a pause. In those quiet places, as in daily prayer, I experience simple truths. Look at the life and miracles in nature that God has given me. I ask myself: What gifts have I received from Him that I can give back to the world before I return to my Almighty Father?
If you could be a superhero, what type would you be? What costume would you wear?
My favorite childhood hero was Superman. That did not change with polio. My mother Lucile enable me to believe in Jesus while at the same time allowed me to have a fantasy life despite the reality of disability. One day I asked her, “Mother, would you please buy me a Superman costume with a cape just like him.” “Of course, Bubba. I will get it right away,” she replied. A week or so later on a very windy day in March an onlooker might have viewed an unusual scene. You see, mother had helped me put on the navy blue leotards and the cape. I limped out the front door and made my way to the highest hill in front of our home. With the wind blowing my cape high in the air behind me, I suddenly regained the strength I had lost with polio. I was 10 years old. I needed a few moments like that. Later I learned that God’s love was stronger than Kryptonite could ever be. Hope and prayer keeps the heart alive and beating for the next breath of life.
Review of Prayerful Passages: Asking God’s Help in Reconciliation, Separation and Divorce (Outskirts Press, 2016) by Jack H. Emmott
Reviewer: Tabatha Pope, The Librarian Book Blog, May 12, 2016
A Helpful Little Book
I went through a messy divorce about seven years ago. I was sad, angry, frustrated, and on the verge of completely losing my faith. I prayed daily for help and intervention. But I struggled, because, outside of the prayers I had memorized as a child, I really didn’t understand HOW to pray.
PRAYERFUL PASSAGES is a great answer to that problem. What a helpful little book! And even now, in my post-divorce dealings with my ex-spouse about our child, I find these short prayers applicable and useful. I’ll be keeping this one in the nightstand for those nights when I’m frustrated with my day, and needing some prayerful time in a “still, quiet place.”
I recommend this book to Christian couples dealing with marital struggles, together or separated, and to those in the midst or aftermath of divorce. Sometimes, it just helps to have a little guidance on the HOW, when it comes to prayer.
Thanks to Deana Dick for this review of Prayerful Passages: Asking God’s Help in Reconciliation, Separation and Divorce that appeared in her blog, Texas Book-aholic. Click here to read the review.
Thanks to Kristine Hall for this review of Prayerful Passages: Asking God’s Help in Reconciliation, Separation and Divorce that appeared in her blog, Hall Ways Blog. Click here to read the review.
Thanks to Missus Gonzo for this review of Prayerful Passages: Asking God’s Help in Reconciliation, Separation and Divorce that appeared in her eponymous blog. Click here to read the review.