Warning – this is a longer-than-usual blog post, and it is no way at all devotional.
I have always loved to read, and specifically, to read stories.
Don’t get me wrong. As an adult, I serve as a pastor, and so I read a lot of non-fiction: the Bible; books on leadership, communication, history, attitude, planning, different aspects of theology, sociology, the Church’s role in our society, living as follower of Jesus in a post-Christian, post-modern era, soul care and spiritual formation, sermons by other pastors, politics, Western civilization, philosophy – I am a voracious reader. I believe it is important for me as a leader to be a life-long learner. My Dad, who has been a pastor for well over fifty years, taught me early in my ministry that for a pastor, a wide variety of books and knowledge were tools as vital to ministry as a well-stocked, even overflowing Husky Tool Chest and Rolling Tool Cabinet Set were to an auto mechanic.
But I’ve always loved to read stories.
I can remember finding an old, red-covered hardback mystery novel in my Grandpa Hunter’s den called The Ghoul. It was a gothic mystery about a haunted house and a frightened heir and a crazed twin brother who imitated his deceased wealthy brother, trying to scare off the heir and killing several servants in the process.
I remember hearing Mr. Young, my fifth grade teacher, reading a large portion of The Bridge of Khazad-dûm – a key chapter in The Fellowship of the Ring, book 1 of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I went home from school that day determined to learn about the rest of the story, and saved every penny I could until I could purchase a paperback set of the trilogy. I fell in love with the rich fantasy world that Tolkien created – a world of elves and dwarves and orcs and ents and hobbits, a world with both deeply flawed men and women and heroic men and women. That amazing fantasy world led me next to Narnia, C.S. Lewis’ incredible fantasy world. Both of these series taught me much about life, about the power of story, and about being a follower of Jesus in dark and difficult times. I began to realize that story wasn’t just entertainment; it was also a powerful way of communicating truth.
I remember checking out Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the school library as a high-school student. I had to sneak that one home, because my parents didn’t want us reading sci-fi or horror or anything like that. But I read Dracula in two nights, staying up after everyone else had gone to sleep. And I discovered that I loved to be scared, which eventually led me to Stephen King.
You know that a lot of people would consider you to be a pretty unusual person when two of your favorite books are The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and It by Stephen King.
But I found in some horror stories a pronounced world view of good versus evil, in which good eventually triumphs over evil. And again, I recognized that story is a powerful tool for communicating truth. (By the way, if it bothers you that I’ve admitted to reading horror at times in my life, you might want to check out my friend Mike Duran’s book, Christian Horror: On the Compatibility of a Biblical Worldview and the Horror Genre. It’s an in-depth theological look at the genre in light of Biblical teaching on the importance of our thought life and Paul’s call to live with a renewed mind.)
Early in my ministry, I finally figured out just how important stories were in the Bible as a whole, and in the teaching ministry of Jesus. At times, it seemed like Jesus went out of His way to tell a story instead of directly answering a question or addressing an issue. For example, there’s this classic: Peter: “How often should I forgive my neighbor?” Jesus: “There was a guy who owed his king a couple of lifetimes’ worth of gold…” And of course, there’s this one: Religious leader: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus: “A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and he was robbed…”
About a decade ago, I read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart and discovered his amazing insight that part of the power of story is that we actually live in a story – the story of our lives. Not only that, but we live in our Father’s larger Story. And because God has writing eternity on our hearts, you can actually discover a representation of the gospel in many of the popular movies and stories in our culture, even though unintended by the authors or movie directors. Gladiator, Braveheart, The Hunger Games, even Harry Potter – you can find a summary or a demonstration of gospel truths in these. (That’s not the point of this post, but if you’d like to engage with me about that idea, I’d be happy to do so.)
So where am I going with all of this?
As I have begun to seriously pursue writing, I have recognized that I enjoy writing both non-fiction and fiction. I set a goal this year for myself of completing both a non-fiction and a fiction book each year from now until when I retire.
But as I write non-fiction, I know that I am not a serious theologian like Tim Keller or John Piper. Nor am I as creative or deep a communicator as Andy Stanley, Mark Batterson, or Bill Johnson. I’m not a controversial pot-stirrer like Mark Driscoll or Brandon Hatmaker. I am an encourager; I am a writer who tries to lift people up. I’m not as funny as John Ortberg or as much of a wordsmith of Max Lucado, but I AM learning my own voice.
And as I learn, I am learning that while I love writing both non-fiction and fiction, fiction is my preferred niche.
And that’s the reason for this post.
I am going to be changing the format of my blog.
It seems like a natural time to do this, after having over a month-long hiatus due to surgery.
Over time, I will be transitioning more and more to fiction, perhaps even creating a separate blog for just that.
But in the meantime, this blog will change to a varied schedule. My plan is that it will look like this:
- Mondays: A devotional or commentary on current events.
- Wednesdays: A book review or recommendation, mostly non-fiction spiritual growth books.
- Fridays: A short story or part of an ongoing serial story.
I’m letting you know about these changes because some of you will be excited and want more. And some of you will decided “this isn’t what I signed up for” and will want to unsubscribe. I will hate to see you go. But it’s okay. There’s no point in your reading these posts if you don’t feel they’re going to benefit you. (However, I would ask you to consider waiting until Friday and reading the first fiction post before unsubscribing. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised or intrigued by what you read!)
I just wanted to give you a heads-up as to what’s coming so you understand why and can decide for yourself. I hope you decide to continue on the journey with me.
Thanks for reading!