Note to My Readers: Due to the busyness of my summer schedule, in which I'm serving as a camp pastor on top of my normal duties, I'll be putting my ongoing Thursday and Friday series on hold until mid-August. All other days will continue to feature new content as usual, and the Thursday and Friday slots will offer devotional and theological reflections (heretofore unpublished) from my seminary years.
You again have my apologies for my recent lack of posts. My muse for writing essays and poetry still seems to be on vacation somewhere...
But, speaking of vacation, I thought I would add a little update on my current situation. Rachel and I are currently on a month-long trip back to our families on the East Coast (made possible by the fact that Rachel is a teacher, and so has the summers off, and that I'm enjoying the blessings of unemployment). The past couple months have been busy for us, even in lieu of schoolwork. I graduated from my program at Denver Seminary in May, and have spent the time since working long shifts at my job in the library, reading books on history and science, and plugging away at a couple writing projects.
I recently finished the first draft of the final novel in my fantasy trilogy, and was fairly pleased with how it turned out. (I've written a few posts over the past couple years in defense of fiction and fantasy literature, in case you haven't seen those yet). Now I'm working on a new novel that's sort of a spinoff of the trilogy, mostly for my own pleasure. But it should give me a good practice-ground for some intentional efforts at honing my writing skills. I'm also starting the long work of revising the second novel of the trilogy. I gave some thought to trying my hand at nonfiction prose, but I think I'll wait awhile on it. Most of the people around me who know of my writing encourage me towards devotional/contemplative works or putting down my thoughts on culture and religion. I've tried a few times, but I inevitably run into problems. The first is the sense that I'm not quite fit to be writing books on such things. I'm only 26, and some of those topics--particularly the devotional/contemplative life--require long seasons of reflection before anything worthwhile can be said. I also tend to lack inspiration for writing such things. I can do snippets, poems, and essays, but to write a book-length treatment of any serious subject seems to be beyond me at this point. I could do a book of unrelated essays, I suppose. And maybe there's a place for that. But I usually have to work hard at essays. When it comes to the sort of writing that just flows out of me when I sit down at a blank page--it's always stories. Not essays or thoughts or anything else, but stories. Part of the joy of stories is that they can be entirely new, whereas sometimes it feels like there's very little new material to be added to the corpus of nonfiction books out there (unless one is a specialist in an academic field, which I'm not). The other hindrance to writing books on culture or the devotional life is that I get the feeling, at this point at least, that they could never possibly measure up to some of the other works out there. Why would I want to write a book on a subject that has been written about a hundred times, with most of those books being far better than what I could produce? If any reader were to ask me whether he ought to read my book on the devotional life or Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, I would immediately direct him toward the latter. So maybe somewhere down the road I might throw together some nonfiction prose, but for now I think I'll stick with stories.
Through a series of random happenstance, though, writing has come into focus for me as potentially a larger part of my life than it has been in the past. I always wrote stories largely for my own pleasure and enjoyment, and I still believe that's the main goal my stories should meet (I really don't know what other rule I could test them by, anyway). But I've begun to consider the possibility of taking my writing a little more seriously--not necessarily to try to make a career out of it, but to treat with a bit more conscientiousness the gifts that I've been given. For the first time in my life, I've undertaken a rather rigorous program of reading and writing with the sole aim of making my writing better. As one author (Mark Twain?) said, "Easy reading is damn hard writing. "When it comes to writing-style in adventure stories, I tend to think that the main goal is to get out of the way of the reader--to make one's style fluid enough to be unnoticed. Too many young writers try to weave intricate styles that end up getting in the way of the story and slowing down the reader. Writing ought to be beautiful, of course, but the beauty of style ought to be, at least in my mind and for the genres in which I write, subservient to the beauty of the story and the characters. And even in adventure stories, there are plenty of places to weave in the harmonic, lyrical styles that we writers itch to spin. But it takes discretion. The main goal of any writing style is to highlight the story, and at certain points in the past I think my writing has tended to obfuscate the story--more by ignorance than by an intentional effort at artistry, though. Anyway, all that to say: I'm currently working on honing my style. Hopefully it will bear some good fruit in my future books. Along with my fourth fantasy book, I'm also spinning a bit of a darker, more contemporary tale at the moment. I don't think it will be a long book, but I hope it will be good--the tale of one man's face-to-face encounter with tragedy, and his long fall from faith.
On the whole, though, writing is still a side-endeavor for me. I hope I'll be able to put it to good use in the future, but my main pathway is still aimed at pastoral ministry. Rachel and I will be interviewing at two churches while we're on our trip back east (and there's a possibility that we might also be able to meet with a third church), so we're excited about that. Hopefully something good will come out of it, and the Lord will lead us to a place where we can grow and flourish alongside a local church. I'm really looking forward to the rhythm of preaching, teaching, prayer, and pastoral care, and we're hoping to find a church that's stable and gracious enough to give me room to grow and develop into the areas in which I don't yet have much experience--leadership, administration, and so on. If pastoral ministry was the NBA draft, I would think that church scouts would say of me, "A bit of a young and unpolished player, but he's got potential." So what we need is a church who's not looking for the already-got-it-all-together answer-man (the veteran All-Star player), but a promising draft pick who will grow alongside them in the journey of following Christ. I hope to grow into a great, capable pastor-leader, but, having never been a full-time pastor yet, I can't honestly say that I'm there yet. That will have to come with time. But I'm excited about these interviews, and what the Lord might have for me in one of these places. All in all, then, it looks to be a promising month.
We're also, as most of you probably already know, expecting the birth of our first child this December. We're very excited, of course. I find myself blown away by the grace and goodness of God. Looking towards being a head pastor for the first time feels a lot like looking toward being a father for the first time--jumping into the wild unknown, full of pressures and expectations and stresses that I can't even yet fathom, and yet suffused with an incomprehensible joy, a sharing in God's delight, that makes me tremendously excited.
I think that's about all I have to say for now. I probably won't write another post until mid- or late-August, when we're back in Colorado.