Author Feature: Jonathan Almanzar & Aaron Havens

April 8, 2011

Hey everyone, I’ve got a treat for you today.

I’m featuring Jonathan Almanzar and Aaron Havens, and their new book, Crabgrass and Oak Trees. Unlike the bulk of Christian publishing lately, the book isn’t a memoir on doubt, or a heavy theological tome, or anything controversial that’s going to raise your blood pressure.  It’s a book of parables, parables about the church, crabgrass and oak trees.  It’s a quiet little book, it marches to it’s own beat, and you’ll be really glad you read it.

Oh, and Jonathan and Aaron started their own publishing company, just so they could give the world their book in all its glory.  I don’t think I’ve ever woken up and said to myself, “I think I’ll start a publishing company today.” Most days, I have an internal debate about whether to take a shower or not.

The guys were cool enough to give some great answers for my questions, and supply a couple of copies of the book that you can win.

Jonathan, can you tell us a bit about who you and Aaron are?

Aaron and I have known one another since 3rd grade.  We grew up on the eastern plains of Colorado and have ended up together from Miami to Mexico and back to Colorado again.  We have been involved in Mega-Churches like Life Church and mini churches like The Pearl.

Currently I am a church planter in Pueblo, CO with The Pearl.  Aaron is the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Gunnison Community Church in Gunnison, CO.

The two of you have started a new publisher which you call Rhizome, and Crabgrass and Oak Trees is it’s first published book.  For all the aspiring book publishers out there, how do you start a book publishing company?

It started around a kitchen table in Harlingen, TX with Aaron, myself, and John Cooper.  We divided up the workload, pursued a few contacts, and were accepted by a great printer.

Wow, you actually make that sound easy.

We had multiple opportunities in the publishing industry but never found a good fit.  We were discouraged at the amount of editing they wanted to do and how much our message changed.  We learned a lot in publishing our first book and we would love to help others do the same. Our goal with Rhizome is to be a place where we can help people publish their stories while keeping their creativity in tact and treating them fairly.

The book is really a series of parables that compares the church to crabgrass.  Where did the crabgrass imagery come from?

Two places.  I spent a lot of time on the plains of Kansas which is described in the book, where crabgrass is abundant.  I also spent two years trying to get a softer, greener grass to start in the hot summers of Mexico.

I can relate.  I never thought I would care as much as I do about getting grass to grow in my yard.  So, in your minds, what stands in the way of the Church living up to its full potential?

There’s three things in my mind.  The church is afraid.  Afraid we won’t have enough, afraid HE isn’t enough.  Afraid our message isn’t cool enough.  Afraid that people won’t follow unless their life gets easier and better.  Afraid if someone “does” it better everyone will leave.  Afraid of the Spirit.  Second, we think that something great can’t happen, or we just aspire to less than the highest and best.  Last is our pursuit of comfort.  It’s not that comforts are wrong, it’s that always trying to be comfortable is holding us back.

You contrast the imagery of the church as crabgrass with the image of an oak tree.  Turns out an oak tree church isn’t so great.  What makes the church like an oak tree?

There’s a few ways the church can be like an oak tree.  Churches, like oak trees can suffer from “invertedness,” meaning consuming your own fruits.  It’s paying more attention to yourself than those around you.  It’s longing for your name to be known rather than the King’s.

Then there’s the fact that everything we do, we do, because we CAN do it:  An oak tree does what it can.  Crabgrass does the impossible (which you’ll find out in the book).  I look at our churches today and we spend a lot of timing planning to do things we can already do and then pray for God to bless them.  Then we do them (because we already could or else we wouldn’t have attempted it).  But it seems to me when I read my Bible that God was calling people to do things they could not do.  Then they prayed, not for HIM to bless it but to bring it to pass.  The Church needs to start looking at the impossible things.

What’s next for you and Aaron and Rhizome?

Aaron has started a leadership coaching service called White Consulting.  I’m working on The Pilgrims Diary of Stolen Words.  For that, I took twenty-four common Christian words and showed where they came from and what they truly mean.  The results can be surprising and sometimes kind of gross. And with Rhizome, we are looking to jump into the publishing world and help as many people as we can.  We will be running a publishing contract contest in the very near future.

I hope it’s a hot dog eating contest, because I would own that, if being a published author was on the line.  Anyway, check out the book here and Rhizome Publishers here, and leave a comment if you want to be entered to win a free copy.  Seriously, it doesn’t even have to be a good comment, and you’ll be glad you did.

25 responses to Author Feature: Jonathan Almanzar & Aaron Havens

  1. Mornin’ Matt,

    The line that struck me most in your post this morning?

    “It’s paying more attention to yourself than those around you. It’s longing for your name to be known rather than the King’s”.

    In my own struggle to become rich, famous and comfortable–I’m already handsome, so I don’t need to worry about that one– I find that more and more I fall into the very sin/trap you mention. But I keep on trying to muddle through.

    Gets pathetic sometimes.


  2. “But it seems to me when I read my Bible that God was calling people to do things they could not do. Then they prayed, not for HIM to bless it but to bring it to pass.” Thank you for those words. I think God is doing something underneath, they resonate with me.

  3. The book has to be about crabgrass because there just isn’t much else to look at in eastern Colorado. It actually sounds like a great read. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Books like this are much more needed than controversial best-sellers that just appeal to people who already agree with the authors anyway. My wife and I find ourselves committed to a conservative church I never would have chosen for myself, but we can see good things happening. Still, I often struggle when it comes to whether I should say something or not. Inward focus is one of those issues I know is worth mentioning, but I have no clue how to approach it. This book sounds like a worthwhile read at least for discussing that topic. Either way,I should check it out.

  5. I want to win the book. Did you post a link to their site anywhere? I’m trying to find out where to go to read more about the book / their publishing company.
    SethC recently posted..Idol

  6. Sounds like an interesting book … I think I need to read it because my faith in the church is fairly thin right now and some of their thoughts seem like they might give me hope again.

    This line is so true. “we spend a lot of timing planning to do things we can already do and then pray for God to bless them.” And I would add “then we feel spiritual smug and mature because we ‘heard’ from God.”

    I’m also interested in their publishing company … and look forward to their contest.
    Janet Oberholtzer recently posted..Thankful Thursday – Post 21

  7. A couple of real gems: “Afraid of the Spirit.” and “It’s longing for your name to be known rather than the King’s.”

    It is so right on. We have a supernatural God, and we get wigged out if he does something supernatural. I have lived in that tension for 35 years.

    The second, longing for your name to be known. How sick is the world of all that? The religious experts, the pop-preachers. People need to know Jesus!

    Of course the publishing company sounds phenomenal. Let me know where to send a manuscript.
    David recently posted..Posting from the Cardiovascular Unit

  8. Sounds like an interesting read.
    Amy Nabors recently posted..Sweet Nine Month Old

  9. Don’t have a good comment but I would love to read the book. Sounds very intriguing.
    Vikki recently posted..Friday Favorite- Hollywood or Bust

  10. Interesting how the sponsored links on the Amazon page are “Get Rid of Crabgrass,” “Crabgrass Control in Lawn,” and “Crabgrass Killer.” Hmmm…

  11. It takes a lot of courage to write a book, and so much more to publish it! Congrats!
    Jo_of_TSN recently posted..A Priestly Community

  12. This:
    “The church is afraid. Afraid we won’t have enough, afraid HE isn’t enough.”
    & This:
    “I look at our churches today and we spend a lot of timing planning to do things we can already do and then pray for God to bless them. Then we do them (because we already could or else we wouldn’t have attempted it).”

    I’m actually very interested in this book. If I don’t win, I will most likely still buy it.
    Clint Oncken recently posted..2nd Weekly Three-Things-Awesome Friday

  13. I love that they believed so strongly in the message and content of their book that they started their own publishing company. Sounds like a good balance of confidence, craziness, and passion!
    HopefulLeigh recently posted..The Enneagram and ME- The Good

  14. There were so many great things said in this interview! They seem to have a real understanding of God’s power and the lack of faith the church puts in to it. The fact that starting their own publishing company seemed so simple and easy speaks volumes of their faith in the Lord and the message they have to share. I will definitely be checking out their site!
    Thanks for this opportunity Matt!

    Hey Matt, is there a place on your site where you announce the winners of all your awesome give-aways? I’m always curious to see who won. Thanks!
    Carla recently posted..I suck ass at Religion!

  15. the book sounds cool. now gimmie!
    Charlie’s Church of Christ recently posted..My Forced Sabbath- Or Trees That Produce Fruit Year Round

  16. Your questions always crack me up, Matt. But this is my favorite part: “…God was calling people to do things they could not do. Then they prayed, not for HIM to bless it but to bring it to pass.” I really want to read this. Really.
    Candy recently posted..Functional Foodie Friday- Warm Strawberry Spinach Salad with Pasta

  17. Hmmm…sounds like a great read, would LOVE to win the book. Thanks for featuring them, and for writing your blog, I always look forward to reading your posts. Keep up the awesomeness :)

  18. I love the whole concept of the book. I would love a copy of it. I was glad to see it’s very inexpensive for Kindle too so I can have a hard copy and one for my kindle. I love what they are doing with their new publishing house. It’s my hope that more and more authors who are not as well known but have something valuable to say will find places like that to be able to afford to publish. Thanks for letting us know about them. :)

  19. I’ll take a copy! 😉

  20. Not smartphone friendly. Too bad!

  21. Great site. My thanks for taking the time. I’ll definitely check again to see what’s new and tell my people about your posting.