Personal Notes from Mike
  • Family travels:  Jie is in Shanghai visiting friends.  Mindy is joining my parents and me today for a three day trip to Holland, Michigan to take in the Tulip Festival.
  • Reading from the Mark Twain's anthology of short stories.  Or, I should say, rereading.

May 7, 2017
Writers in the family
It's been a lifelong dream of mine to write a book.  I'm working on several at the moment.  Professionally, I'm working on a commentary on Matthew, a book on why business strategies don't work in the church, and a psychological/theological exposition on the importance of stories.  I'm also trying to write a novel.  AND I write these Sunday essays, which might go in a book someday, if I can figure out how.  Short stories also interest me, and I even tried my hand at one this week (and presented it as the bulk of my sermon this morning.)

My dad always wanted to write a book, one of the dreams he voiced to the family.  And I have evidently passed this is a dream on to my children.  My daughters, Mindy and Alison, are the only ones in the family to actually finish a book...back when they were in grade school.  

When Alison was in fifth grade, all the kids in her class had to handwrite a book that would be given to the various students in the second grade.  She won the grand prize for a book about a dog she saw as it rambled down Interstate 64 in the middle of St. Louis.  Her narrative was written from the dog's point of view. 
Mindy also wrote books while in grade school, sometimes for class credit.  She always finished those books.  But she also started several books for her own amusement.  My favorite (I still have it) is one she never completed: The Holy Bible, by Mindy Smith. It was mostly blank inside. 

We have lots of unfinished books in our family.  After Jie and I got married and she discovered that I like to write, she urged me to pen a novel about her life.  The fact that we are still married is a good tip-off that I never actually got around to starting that project.
A little over a year ago I joined a writers' group in order to take my writing more seriously...and in order to get some guidance and critique from other writers.  With all due respect, my church members are not very good at appraising my writing.  This is because most church people are too polite:  they just nod and compliment and smile.  And to be frank, many of my readers have no suggestions to offer because they simply aren't interested in the techniques of writing. There are, of course, a few folks who like to complain, but a complaint isn't the same as a critique.  So, my writers' group fills an important gap in my cadre of life-consultants.   
The hardest project in my list of ambitions is to write a novel.  This is a daunting task, not because novels require hours and hours of writing, but because they require a different kind of writing than I normally do. 

If you take everything I've written in nearly 45 years of being a pastor, the work would take up as much space as my 30-volume Encyclopedia Britannica. But taking up all that space is not the same thing as deserving to take up all that space.  I've already thrown away boxes of reports, plans, projects, administrative correspondence, and proposals (that seemed like good ideas at the time.)  Someday, after my demise, some poor soul will have to haul away filing cabinets full of sermons, essays, Sunday letters, correspondence, and ideas that I still thought would fly. That same poor soul may also have to dispose of a dozen or more partial book manuscripts, if I don't get them written soon and sent off to prospective publishers..
Maybe a psychiatrist would help me figure out why I have written so much yet gathered so little into book form.  Do I have a fear of rejection (from publishers?)  Do I subconsciously sabotage my own success?  Am I just lazy? 
My procrastination probably stems from a sad robbery that occurred in my life over 20 years ago.  Thugs swept through our subdivision one night, broke into about 30 cars, and stole everything they could get their hands on.  When they got to my car, they swiped my briefcase: full of notes, sermons, and essays. It was a sad night in our sub-division:  people lost lots of valuables.  Except me.  As the thieves ran down our street, one of them opened up my briefcase to see what loot he had pilfered.  Then, after riffling through its contents, he tossed the whole thing into the nearest yard.  I alone (of all the citizens in the town) recovered everything the next morning.  Never was relief so insulting.  

Oh well.  Who doesn't have a story like that? I'll keep writing, nevertheless.  And some day, Lord have mercy, you, gentle reader, may be able to pick up my life's achievement from the bargain table at Barnes and Noble.          --Mike   

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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