James Michener became famous for his historical novels like Chesapeake, Hawaii, Centennial and Space. He wrote forty books that sold more than 75 million copies. His first book was adapted as the popular musical South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

His novel Hawaii was published just as Hawaii became the fiftieth state garnering great interest. Centennial was about the American west and made into a twelve-part miniseries on NBC. His books were based on extensive historical and cultural research. Michener’s style was characterized by people fleshed out with deep genealogical and cultural roots.

Ironically, he was a man without a birth certificate. He did not know when or where he was born. He never knew his biological parents. Abandoned as an infant he was raised as a foster son by a widow, Mabel Michener.

For some unknown reason Michener’s accomplishments raised the ire of one of his adoptive family members. As Michener gained notoriety and fame he began to receive hate-filled notes from this anonymous relative.

The relative charged James with besmirching the Michener name, which he said, “You have no right to use.” This continued even after Michener won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

The phrase this hateful relative used that wounded Michener the most was, “Who do you think you are, trying to be better than you are?” Michener wrote those words were “burned into my soul.”

He turned those negative words into a positive challenge. He even admitted to missing the nasty letters when his mysterious relative died. Michener said, “I’ve spent my entire life trying to be better than I was and I’m a brother to all who share the same aspiration.”

Are you trying to be better than you are? All followers of Christ should be aspiring to be the person God has called us to be. Romans 8:29 tells us, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” It is our destiny to formed and shaped to be like Jesus.

To be better than you are means doing things you would not naturally do. It means not doing things you would naturally like to do. When we allow God’s Spirit to work in us we can become a person much better than we ever dreamed.

Of course, we will struggle and stumble as we try to be like Jesus. But in the process, we become better than we are.


About Rick McDaniel

Rick McDaniel is a noted author, international communicator and church leader. He is the founder/senior pastor of Richmond Community Church in Richmond, Virginia. The church is known for its contemporary and innovative services and has a worldwide reach through McDaniel has earned three degrees including an advanced degree from Duke University and is the author of​ six​​ books including his latest "Turn Your Setbacks Into Comebacks." He has traveled and spoken at conferences and churches worldwide spanning six continents.

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