It's What You Make of It ~ Spotlight with Excerpt

 It Is What You Make of It
Creating Something Great from What You’ve Been Given
By Justin McRoberts

Publisher : Thomas Nelson (June 1, 2021)
Paperback : 208 pages

Justin McRoberts dares you to move beyond “it is what it is” thinking and become an agent of love and redemption in your household, neighborhood, and workplace.

“It is what it is”—a common phrase you hear and maybe even say yourself. But the truth is that there is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence that simply is what it is. Justin McRoberts invites you to embrace a new mindset: it is what you make of it.

With warmth, wisdom, and humor, McRoberts shares key moments from his twenty-plus years as an artist, church planter, pastor, singer-songwriter, author, neighbor, and father, passing on lessons and practices learned about making something good from what you’ve been given rather than simply accepting things as they are.

Thought-provoking but actionable, It Is What You Make of It declares that love doesn’t just win, mercy doesn’t just triumph, and light doesn’t just cast out shadow. Rather, such renewal requires the work of human hands and hearts committed to a vision of a world made right (or at least a little better). When we partner with God in these endeavors, we love the world well and honor the Creator in whose image we are made.

We will not be remembered for who our parents were or where we were born or what our socioeconomic circumstances were. We won’t be remembered for our natural talents and strengths or the opportunities we were given or the challenges we faced. In the end, each of us will be remembered for what we made with what we were given.

Purchase Links

Thomas Nelson | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Justin McRoberts

Justin McRoberts lives in the Oakland–San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Amy, and two children. He is the author of four books, including Prayer: 40 Days of Practice and May It Be So: 40 Days with the Lord’s Prayer. Justin’s sixteen albums and EPs have gained him a faithful audience among listeners nationwide since 1999.

Justin leans on his over twenty years in the arts and ministry to mentor and coach artists and pastors in person as well as over video calls. He is also the host of the podcast @ Sea with Justin McRoberts and co-founding pastor of Shelter-Vineyard Church Community in Concord, CA. Justin regularly travels to speak at churches and colleges, as well as leads retreats for ministry staff, college students, and young adults.

Connect with Justin

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Excerpt:
Chapter Five

Everybody Hurts,
Everybody Matters

In the fall of 2010, I started the largest and most time-
consuming and energy-sucking creative project of my
life up to that point (and, God willing, ever). I didn’t
know that when I started it. I just thought I’d throw
together a few good ideas and have some fun! Then, I’d
invite a small team of people to join with me, and the
fun would be multiplied to partylike status. Only, this
party was three people working way too many hours
for nowhere near enough money while I disintegrated
into the worst version of myself anyone at the “party”
could have imagined.

Cue Richard Wagner–oriented party playlist.
The project was a combination of letter writing
and essays and music and lyrics and visual art and
documentary-style video and stress and passive aggression
and regular aggression and also personal
reflections on relationships. Thematically, it was a
celebration of community and a record of what my
friends and family had made out of the circumstances
and relationships God had gifted us. Eventually
released in 2012 and called The CMYK Project, it
turned out alright as a project. Sadly, it cost me a dear
friend along the way.

One of the final phases of The CMYK Project
involved the printing of a book. Actually, that’s only
partially true; it was two books. Actually, that’s only
partially true as well; it was really the same book in
two formats. Somewhere in the process, we (and by
“we” here, I mean “I”) decided on printing two versions
of the same book; one version was just a regular-ole
book with text on paper. The other was a two-hundred-
page, full-color extravaganza featuring artwork and
photography and interviews (which I didn’t mention
in the description above, just like I didn’t mention it
to my team when we were working on it) along with
letters and essays. It’s probably also worth noting that
we released the music on three separate EPs with three
different covers and then selected a few songs from each
of those EPs, rerecorded those songs, and tacked on
even more songs to create a fourth musical aspect to
the project—a full-length, full-band, studio-recorded
album. So what we produced was . . .
a four-CD, twenty-five-song collection,
a text-only book,
a full-color book,
three physical art installations by different artists
in different cities,
video interviews with each of the visual artists,
transcribed, printed versions of each of those inter-
views, and
the gradual, tragic disintegration of every
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know . . . It.
Was. A. Lot.

The real fun begins with knowing that I’d never
done anything like that before. In fact, I’d never made
a book before, which was probably the most straight-
forward part of the entire project. To make that portion
of the project simpler and easier on us (and by “us”
here, I mostly mean “me”), my art director and I sub-
mitted the book-printing process to a large, reputable
printing company. Having done what we thought was
all the heavy lifting (writing, designing, formatting,
arguing, walking away, and then returning to the same
argument . . . blah, blah, blah), all that was left was to
upload the book files; make the few, small adjustments
we’d probably need to make; and then dance victoriously
as the book (along with every other aspect of the
project) found its way into the hands, hearts, and minds
of readers .

Three days after the first upload, we got a notification
that there were things in need of fixing. Like
I said, we expected this, and while the list of corrections
was quite a bit longer than we’d anticipated, we
happily fixed the book and uploaded it again, thrilled
to be done with this massively too-big and costly, and
also ridiculous to the point of being beyond description,

Three days after that, the printer responded a second
time with a list of errors, several of which we were
certain we’d fixed. So I called the printer’s customer ser-
vice number . . . and I wasn’t kind. Not even a little bit. I
was tired, and I felt that being tired somehow excused
me from being kind. After feeling like I’d sufficiently
communicated my frustration and disappointment, I
hung up, and we dove into our third round
of edits and fixes.

Then there was a fourth,
and then a fifth,
and a sixth,

and eventually, the same two things started happening
every three to four days:
1. We received the same set of twenty-five
notifications and necessary changes.
2. I ended up on the phone with customer service.
Over and over and over for weeks and weeks and
The only things that seemed to change were my
level of frustration and the depth of insult I was there-
fore prepared to dole out over the phone to the agent I
spoke to.
This went on for twelve rounds.
Quick math: twelve rounds times three business
days per round (which means we’re not counting
weekends) means six-plus weeks, which, divided by
seven days per week, factoring relational stress and a
dwindling supply of bourbon = YIKES!!!
When that twelfth email came from the printer,
I stared at my computer screen blankly until my art
director spoke up. “I think I’ll call this time, okay?”
said Gary. “I’m not as angry as you are.”

I left to run a few errands while he called the printer.
When I got back, Gary told me he’d worked it all out.
I wanted to know if “working it all out” meant he’d
murdered anyone. He said no, which was slightly dis-
appointing but probably for the best. What he meant by
“working it all out” was that he’d asked to speak with a
supervisor, just as I had. And just as had happened when
I’d called, Gary was told they didn’t have supervisors.
But then, instead of losing his cool and insulting the
person on the other end of the call (my strategy), Gary
calmly described our situation and history in detail and
kindly but firmly asked who he should be talking to.
“You need a specialist,” the agent told him.
In eleven previous calls, I’d never even heard the
word specialist much less been given the option to
speak to one.

Gary said he held the line and was connected to
someone we will call, for the purposes of this story,
“the Specialist.” Gary described our situation, and the
Specialist said she thought it was “really odd.” Gary
assured her he was aware of how odd it was and then
asked what we needed to do. The Specialist asked Gary
to upload the file again.

“With all due respect,” Gary replied, “we’ve
uploaded the file a dozen times now.”

“I can see that,” said the Specialist. “This time, I’ll
stay on the phone with you and wait for it to hit our
system. Then we can look at the file together.”

Ten minutes later, Gary and the Specialist were
looking at the file together.

“Is your file supposed to be five-by-eight or six-by-

“It should be six-by-nine.”

The Specialist paused and then asked Gary if she
could call him back. Twenty minutes later, she called
back and told Gary what was actually going on. It
wasn’t that their system had a glitch or that our file
was corrupt or even that we were doing something 
technically wrong.

It was much worse and far weirder than any of that.
During one of the early phone calls in the editing
process, I’d said something pretty horrible to one of the
technicians. In turn, he’d reset the specs on our project
from six-by-nine (which was correct) to five-by-eight,
so that every time we uploaded the file, it would trigger
dozens of warnings and be rejected. The technician had
sabotaged our project. That’s a pretty horrible thing to
do to someone. But he did it because I’d been horrible
to him.

Now here’s what’s really funny (and by “funny” I
mean painfully ironic and related to my social ineptitude):
the full title of the CMYK Project—the book plus
three EPs plus full-length LP plus visual art plus video
plus other book—was CMYK: The Process of Life

Together and was promoted as “a celebration of life in
relationship.” It was chock-full of stories and anecdotes
about getting along with and loving other people, particularly
where there were differences of opinion and
experience. It was a project about my own process of
learning to love people the way Jesus loved people.

So . . .
Can you imagine being the tech on the other end
of the phone, staring at a chapter about the unconditional
love of God while the author of that chapter calls
you names? Perhaps you’d think the love and kindness
described in those pages weren’t for you. And if I’m
honest, I certainly wasn’t offering them to that customer
service agent, because in my mind he wasn’t a
person but an instrument. I talked to him the way I talk
to the car that won’t start or the software that freezes.
His value was entirely predicated on how useful and
helpful he was to me.

My encounter with that tech reminds me of one in
the Gospel of Mark: the one about a woman whose
body was healed when she simply touched the clothes
Jesus was wearing. It’s a remarkable story in a lot of
ways. First of all, that was quite an ensemble Jesus had
on, right? I’ve got a few favorite shirts, but none of them
have mystical healing properties. More significantly
(and less jokingly), I am captivated by the choice Jesus
made to stop and talk with the woman who touched
“the hem of his garment” (Matthew 9:20). Because
the way he handled the moment says far less about the
clothes he had on or even his power to heal and far more
about how important and valuable she was to him.
As the writer of Mark told it, a man named Jairus,
whose daughter was dying, went to find Jesus to ask
for help. Jesus was up to other things at the time, but
he changed course when Jairus asked him to heal his
daughter. That part makes sense to me. Jairus led a syn-
agogue, which made him a big deal in social, political,
and religious circles. Helping Jairus presented a legit-
imate opportunity to heighten Jesus’ profile, prove a
few folks wrong, and “get the message out,” as it were.
But as Jesus was following Jairus back to his home,
the trajectory of the story changed.
And a woman was there who had been subject to
bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great
deal under the care of many doctors and had spent
all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew
worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up
behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,
because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I
will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped
and she felt in her body that she was freed from her
suffering.” (Mark 5:25–29)

Jesus then asked about who touched him, which
a few of his friends found a bit silly, seeing as though
there was a whole mob of people jostling about and
bumping into one another. But to Jesus (and this is the
part that gets me), this woman wasn’t just another per-
son in the crowd. Which is why I absolutely love the
way the writer of Luke wrote about this same story. As
he retold it, when Jesus asked about who touched him,
she tried to stay hidden but eventually conceded that
“she could not go unnoticed” (Luke 8:47).

How good is that?
“She could not go unnoticed.”
Jesus stopped, and along with him, the whole crowd
that had been following him. I don’t know how long
their conversation went on, because none of the writers
who captured this moment provided that detail. But
apparently it was long enough for Jesus to hear a lot
of this woman’s story. She’d been sick and bleeding for
twelve years with multiple medical failures along the
way. The other thing the story makes clear is that Jesus
was invested enough in the conversation that someone
else had to interrupt him and let him know Jairus’s
daughter had died.

Now, it’s significant that, once Jesus finally did
arrive, he assured the people in Jairus’s household
that, despite appearances, he had things in hand and
could still heal Jairus’s young daughter. That says to
me that Jesus had enough confidence in his ability to
do the work he’d committed to that he could pause for
a moment along the way and turn his full attention to
a person he’d met so that “she didn’t go unnoticed.”
That customer service agent wasn’t just another
per- son along the way, though I treated him like he
was. Since the CMYK Project, I’ve learned that . . .
the customer service agent helping me sort out font
problems during manufacturing,
the Apple Genius Bar employee helping restore my
lost data,
my web developer, 
the barista or bartender serving me while I write,
the UPS or FedEx driver delivering proofs,
the neighbor whose dog pops over to play ball while
I’m editing, 
the dog herself who wants to pay ball . . .
all these people are actually people (except the
dog, who is not a person but thinks she is, so we’ll keep
her on the list). They are, each of them, beloved ones of
God with dreams and hopes and problems and
opportunities and relationships and needs and gifts
and strengths.

They are the kinds of people worth making great work
for. Which also makes them the kinds of people worth
stopping great work for, whether or not they’re
directly part of that work process or not.
They aren’t stepping-stones on my path to success.
They aren’t cogs in the wheel of my productivity.
They aren’t part of my “system.”
Even (and especially) if they’re part of my team
working to complete a project.
Remember a moment ago when I asked you to
imagine being the technician on the other end of the
phone, staring at an entry about the unconditional love
of God while the author of that page yells at you and
calls you names? Well, let’s take that one step further,
shall we? Because that’s where the deeper learning les-
son was for me.

Imagine being my art director, Gary, who took on
that final phone call to put the project back on track
after I’d derailed it with my anger. Imagine working for
nearly two years on a project ostensibly celebrating the
unifying love of God for people while watching your
partner and project leader verbally abuse customer service
agents over the phone and then carry that anger
around the office every day. Maybe you’d lose respect
for that person. Maybe you’d have a hard time trusting
them as a leader or a friend. Maybe you might even
decide that was the last time you’d work with that per-
son or anyone like them if it meant being treated that
way or being party to treating others that way.
You see, what I know now is that how I treat the
people I work with . . . nope. Let me fix that:
What I know now is that how I love the people I
work with and for and around says ten thousand times
more about who I am than any project or job or end
result, regardless of its effectiveness, beauty, impact,
or market success. I’d rather make garbage work while
honoring and maintaining great relationships than cre-
ate bestselling work while becoming the kind of person
nobody wants to be around.

It was and is the love in Jesus that was and is the
source of healing, whether on the street in a crowd or
in the back room of a powerful social figure—which
is to say, Jesus was the same person wherever he went.
I want to live like that.
I want that kind of love to dictate the way I work.
The way I’d addressed the young man at the printing
agency had almost nothing to do with his job or
position or the fact that I didn’t personally know him;
it had everything to do with me and my character. Yes,
the professional distance between us made it easier for
me to be unkind, but the capacity to dehumanize some-
one and use them for my own purposes was in me from
the start. And here is something true: I don’t get to (and shouldn’t want to)
make anything out of someone else’s life. That’s not my job. My vision isn’t big
enough for your life. That’s God’s job. Only divine hands can make something out
of a human life without belittling, stifling, and minimizing that person in the

About four years after that first book came out, my third book hit the shelves.
It was a book of prayers I’d collected from my own practice, born out of trying to
live more intentionally. Among them was the prayer I wrote shortly after the
completion of The CMYK Project. It reads,
May the work I do
never become more important to me than the people I get to
work with or those I’m working for.

Taken from “It Is What You Make of It” by Justin McRoberts. Copyright 2021 by Justin McRoberts.
Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.

Review tour:

Monday, May 24th: @irishgirliereads

Tuesday, May 25th: Blooming with Books – excerpt/guest post

Wednesday, May 26th: Nurse Bookie and @nurse_bookie

Thursday, May 27th: @cozy.coffee.reads

Friday, May 28th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews and @bluntscissorsbookreviews (audiobook)

Sunday, May 30th: She Just Loves Books and @shejustlovesbooks (audiobook)

Monday, May 31st: Seaside Book Nook (audiobook)

Tuesday, June 1st: The Sketchy Reader

Wednesday, June 2nd: @createexploreread (audiobook)

Thursday, June 3rd: Stranded in Chaos and @sarastrand9438

Friday, June 4th: Leighellen Landskov and @mommaleighellensbooknook

Monday, June 7th: From the TBR Pile – excerpt

Tuesday, June 8th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom – review and excerpt

Wednesday, June 9th: @reading_with_nicole

Thursday, June 10th: @jenniaahava

Friday, June 11th: What is That Book About – excerpt

Monday, June 14th: @legallyblondeandbookish

Wednesday, June 16th: @rozierreadsandwine (audiobook)

Thursday, June 17th: Tabi Thoughts – review and excerpt

Friday, June 18th: @bookshelfmomma (audiobook)

Instagram feature tour:

Monday, June 21st: @lyon.brit.andthebookshelf

Tuesday, June 22nd: @travelerswife4life

Wednesday, June 23rd: @lovelyplacebooks

Thursday, June 24th: @lovemybooks2020

Thursday, June 24th: @soulofabookworm

Friday, June 25th: @thecalicobooks

Friday, June 25th: @mom_loves_reading

Saturday, June 26th: @what.ems.reading

Sunday, June 27th: @books_faith_love

1 comment:

  1. I'm starting this one over this weekend! Sara @ TLC Book Tours


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~ Blooming with Books