on being a faith-based writer, and living the story we are compelled to tell

NOTE: Most of the comments on my School Shooting post appeared in a thread on my Facebook page; here’s how I wrapped up my part of the conversation: “So thanks, all, for a lot to think about. I am a work in progress. I’m often wrong and have much to learn. I believe there is always room to learn and process and grow. I still think it is too easy to get weapons that exacerbate mass killing – that needs to change. I especially appreciate the ability of many of you to disagree respectfully… So – please – keep your minds open and your brains engaged. If you already have all the answers then I really don’t want to hear from you.”


[Jesus] answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out. – Luke 19:39-41

1-IMG_4350-003I had a couple of cool experiences this weekend I’d like to share. It started with a most enjoyable trip to Charlotte, where I’d been invited to talk with M-Div. students (masters of divinity) about faith-based writing. The professor wanted the future preachers exposed to an author with the following bonafides: currently in print, fiction and nonfiction, books and periodicals, a reach that includes secular readers, Presbyterian.

Fortunately, he wasn’t looking for best-selling or recently featured on Oprah.

The students in Dr. Brisson’s class are intelligent, motivated, curious, and following a deep sense of calling to serve God with all their creative abilities. Here are a few of the things we talked about:

How do I write?

Writing is essentially about three things: staying awake, listening, and keeping my eyes open. Then it’s simply a matter of taking notes. These are essentials for living the Christian life, too; Jesus consistently talked about all three.

Being awake, of course, means open hearts, open minds, paying attention, and – more importantly – being awake to God’s spirit. Specifically, we must turn the intention of our attention toward being wide-open and receptive, we must invite God to prime the roots of our awareness, we must remain open as the story unfolds.

Why do I write?

Dr. Brisson’s class in Charlotte

Most importantly, I write because I have a story to tell. I am constantly excited about the open invitation God extends through Jesus. I write so I can communicate this good news, and so I can encourage others in their journey.

I also write – and speak when I have the opportunity – because being a witness is not optional for someone who follows Jesus, sharing the story is a necessary element of what it means to follow. If we remain quiet, Jesus said, the stones on the side of the road are going to feel compelled to cry out.

I guess that’s the word – compelled.


We also talked about understanding our own story. It’s tough to do a good job of inviting others into the Greatest Story Ever Told if we don’t understand how our own story intersects with God’s initiative of love.

This is the point where the two experiences I’m writing about intersect. Because part two is the annual business meeting of our church. Sounds boring, right? But it wasn’t because Rebekah instructed her staff to avoid statistics and budgets and program details (that’s all in the printed report), and simply share stories that illustrate what God is up to here at WFPC.

The stories were rich and varied, all revealing the vibrant interface between the way God loves us and the way we implement that love in our day-to-day lives.

1-IMG_4371Here’s just one of those stories, coming from our director of children, family, and youth Katherine Pieper. She talked about a recent baptism involving a couple of young children. Rebekah doesn’t “spritz” the way many pastors tend to, there’s a serious amount of water involved. Later, the child’s mother noticed his ear was dripping and leaned in to mop it up. “No you don’t!” the child declared. “This is Jesus’s water, and pastor Rebekah put it there.”

May this day be a day where your story intersects so clearly with the “good-news”
story that you can’t miss the refreshing baptism of God’s love, that you are filled up, that it spills over, and that the story of your life becomes a compelling witness to grace.


pictures from Charlotte, then staff at WFPC annual meeting:


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