Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Losers Like Us GIVEAWAY and Interview With the Author

I recently read a book called, Losers Like Us: Redefining Discipleship After Epic Failure by Daniel Hochhalter. It was one of those books that came up because I read another, similar book. The title intrigued me. The book transformed me. 

The "losers" he is talking about are the disciples. Jesus called each one of those men knowing full well that they were a mess. He called them anyway.And He calls us despite our messes.

Each chapter I read, I said, "Oh yeah, that's me." I said that with every chapter. How could it be that I was so much like every loser? Because each chapter focuses on one particular aspect of each disciple, and I have more than one not so desirable trait in my personality. So do you.

I'd love to go into more detail with my review, but you can read the reviews and the synopsis on amazon.com. Suffice it to say that I LOVED this book.

I'd like to instead share an interview with the author, Daniel Hochhalter...AND...invite you to enter a giveaway for Losers Like Us. (pun intended?)

Instead of one book, Daniel has graciously and generously offered THREE books as a giveaway! Simply follow the instructions for the Rafflecopter giveaway below. And please be sure to visit Daniel's website if you have time. You'll learn even more about him there. He is a brilliant writer and a brilliant man. Losers Like Us: Redefining Discipleship After Epic Failure is available for purchase through amazon.com and Barnes and Noble (or wherever you make online book purchases) or through his website.

 What a title! How did you come up with this idea, and why “losers?”

The title itself was my wife’s idea. But the whole concept that we and the disciples are “losers” is mine. I use the word “losers” for the sheer ugliness of it, because grace shines more brightly in the ugliness.

I am always amazed that the Bible never hides the sins of its characters. But we do; in Bible study and Sunday school materials, we portray them as spiritual giants with glowing halos, always gazing toward heaven. Growing up with this misunderstanding gave me an “if-only” complex: if only I could overcome this sin, or develop that skill, then maybe God could use me like he used them.

Then, in 2008, my PhD and my dream job went bust. My life, my future, even my framework of God imploded; I was utterly adrift – desperately searching for some ray of hope, anything to get through the day, but none came.

During this dark time, I found my old notes on “Great Losers of the Bible” – a series I had created and taught as a youth pastor, years earlier. I realized that back then I had studied the disciples as a detached observer; I saw them as losers. But, after my life fell apart, the whole concept became personal – I saw myself as a loser. So I got the idea to hold up each disciple’s faults and sins to my own, like a mirror, to see what might emerge. This exercise morphed into “Losers Like Us.”

Some people say that we believers are in Christ, so we are not losers. But we really are, in the sense that we continually miss the mark. Jesus is the only winner. There can be only one winner. Amazingly, he invites us into the winner’s circle to celebrate and identify with him.

I love that---"There can only be one winner."

The book focuses on the fact that each one of the disciples of Jesus were, in fact, losers. Is there one particular one that you identified with more than others? If so, why?

It has to be Peter – the disciple who kept blowing it. For most of my life, I felt that I was in a “sin, repent, repeat” cycle that I couldn’t quite escape. Each time I repented (again) of one of my many sins, I was terrified God might walk away and say, “That’s it! I’ve had enough.” Then I saw how Peter went through this cycle over and over. With all his heart he wanted to follow Jesus – but even after he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he still kept missing the mark. I can really relate to that. Yet look at how God used him.

Throughout your book, I marveled at the depth of your writing, your intuitiveness, and your ability to make these disciples more real to me. You infused humor into what could be an otherwise dry subject. But I also marveled at the depth of your academic and biblical knowledge. I kept shaking my head in disbelief that you were denied your PhD. How did you process that, especially having to relive it as you wrote through the feelings?

Thank you for your kind words! After being broadsided by rejection, deep self-loathing can set in, and all I could see was a stupid man who spent over a hundred thousand dollars on an education he would never use. That is a dark place to live.

So yes, I did relive a lot of emotion while writing the book – especially because I had to retell the story of my PhD failure, and I had just barely started to grieve; the pain and humiliation were mind-numbing. Putting that story in the chapter about James, the egotist, seemed to give me a new perspective on pride vs. humiliation vs. true humility. After drafting that chapter, I was drained. I didn’t write for a week.

Did you start writing this while you were sorting through all the feelings of inadequacy, or did it come after you worked through it all? Was it therapeutic to write through the emotions? Did it help you to overcome discouragement and disappointment?

I wrote it in the middle of the darkness, so to speak. My life was a train wreck; I had no backup plans, no prospects. Most books about the disciples seem to be written by already-successful Bible teachers – usually with PhDs! – but mine was written through great pain and failure.

So yes, the writing was therapeutic and healing, but it drained me. At the end, my wife and I edited out a lot of the bitterness and self-pity, because we knew it wouldn’t help anyone.

So much of who we are is tied up (and sometimes knotted beyond unknotting) in what we do, what we achieve or fail to achieve. How would you suggest separating our “who” from our “do?”

Moving from “do” to “who” involves a paradigmatic shift in the way we think about our relationship with Christ. Often, this shift happens only through a deep valley of crisis or failure.

John of the Cross describes the “dark night of the soul” as an experience sent by God, to break us of human striving. The “dark night” is a time when God seems to have disappeared. We work so hard to feel his presence, but we just can’t. So we work harder and harder, but we feel him less and less. Finally, all of our efforts implode, and only God remains. Sometimes that’s what it takes to force us to think differently.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that I am God.” We can meditate on God’s awesomeness – knowing that it’s relationship with him, not human effort, which gives our life meaning and value.

What’s the greatest thing about being a loser?

The greatest thing is having the freedom of grace – the freedom to be myself, no matter what others think. I know my life is a mess, filled with sin and baggage. But I don’t have to pretend it’s not. I don’t have to impress anyone. I can just give God my best, and rely on the cross. That’s exactly why grace is so wonderful and mysterious.

What would you tell someone who is struggling with feelings of inadequacy, insignificance or unworthiness--basically, someone who feels like a loser and can’t be used by God?

I’d say, “You’re in great company.” Look at all of the people in the Bible. Abraham was a compulsive liar. Moses and David were murderers. The disciples were selfish, uneducated bickerers and deserters. Yet Jesus prayed all night before selecting them, and that’s who he got. So apparently those doofuses were exactly who God had in mind to spread his kingdom around the world. Why would he work any differently today?

Thank you, Daniel! You can read more of Daniel's story of paralyzing failure and brokenness redeemed at

Please make sure you enter the giveaway through Rafflecopter (see below). 

Remember...there will be THREE WINNERS!!!

(Contest ends on Sunday, September 27th) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

I'll announce the winners in next Tuesday's blog post, at which time I will also announce my topic for the upcoming 31 Days of Writing challenge.

Blessing Along the Path,

Sharing this post on these lovely blogs


  1. "Each chapter I read, I said, "Oh yeah, that's me." I said that with every chapter. How could it be that I was so much like every loser? Because each chapter focuses on one particular aspect of each disciple, and I have more than one not so desirable trait in my personality. So do you." Oh, yeah, honey, that's for sure. I love both this book's title and the truth behind it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Mary...even if I don't win it, I'll put it on my list of things to read once I get through my "Little House" marathon! ;)

    1. Thanks for entering Elizabeth. It really is a super book! I'm enjoying Laura's antics. But now I know why Mary never had a big part in the show. Laura doesn't talk about her much in the books. I was sitting in my car listening to how the wolves surrounded the house. Spooky!

  2. Wow! Awesome post, Mary! And this book definitely sounds like a must read! So happy to connect with you and so grateful to visit with you this morning! Peace and many blessings to you, Love! :-)

    1. Thanks, Tai! And I enjoyed connecting with you on your blog as well. Blessings!

  3. What deep lessons God teaches us in the midst of failure and grief. This sounds like a deep and important read. Thanks for sharing. Linking with you at #TellHisStory. So great to visit again this week!

    1. It's always a joy to see you here, Ginger! SOMEDAY we will collaborate on SOMETHING! In His time.

    2. Hi Ginger! Thank you for your kind words!

  4. I think I'm gonna find myself in these pages too. Thanks for sharing. And good luck to those who entered.

    1. You'll be in good company, Lux! I think we can all find ourselves in these pages-and it is from a different perspective than all of the current popular books written by women-those are good, but this is different, also good!

  5. If you find yourself -- like me -- in any or all of the pages, don't worry ... grace is an amazingly wonderful thing! :)

  6. I’m not sure why, but it always makes us feel better to know we’re not the only losers. :) Yes, we’re in great company in this camp. Thanks for sharing this book, Mary. It sounds very good.

    1. Haha, yes, Lisa, you're so right! Daniel makes such a good point in his book (I think it was about Peter) how we have the privilege of looking back. We know the outcome. We've read the book in it entirety. We have hindsight, which is why we're always so quick to say, "Oh yes, I can identify with Peter, but can you believe how he denied God/looked down when he was walking on water? I would never do that." Truth is, if we were there in that turbulent time, we don't know how we would act or react. Truth is, I don't know if I would have even ventured out on those waves! Daniel makes such wonderful points in his book that it really makes you think, and then offers you comfort to know that those who went before you really were quite a mess! So there's hope for us!

    2. Hi, Lisa! Yes, that is what really helped me in writing this book. As I worked through it, I finally began to see that no one is beyond Christ's redemption, and God has this pattern of using broken, ordinary, sinful misfits to establish his kingdom. He seems to prefer using the fool to shame wise. We really are in very good company!

  7. What great interview questions!
    Thanks for the heads up about this book -- terrific title!

    1. Thanks, Michele. I never fashioned myself an interviewer before. Blogging is always an adventure! Yes, the title is what captured my interest!

    2. I agree! They were very thoughtful questions! Thank you, Michelle!

  8. Hi Mary, What an authentic writer and book. A good viewpoint that God uses the broken so his glory can shine through. In our weakness he is strong. The difficult time in life is where we often learn our most important lessons. I would read this book. Thank you for sharing. :)

  9. Mary this sounds so good! I need to check it out. I'm a loser thankful for grace! Blessings to you!

  10. I am glad I won a copy!
    Thank you Mary and Daniel. I am grateful