I’m a travel writer. I like reading non-fiction. In fact, I never read fiction at all. I just can’t waste time on something that didn’t happen; which is why it came as a galloping shock to me when I recently started writing fiction. In fact, everyone who knows me is shocked. My readers have responded with kind words of encouragement and many have enjoyed my fiction more than my travel stuff. A pair of pleasant surprises!
My fiction has a specific feel to it - Southeast Asia, 1800s, Military, Missionary - and after writing each one I feel a sense of accomplishment that goes far beyond the travel writing I’ve done. It’s so different. It’s so fun! I think what has captured my imagination so readily is my absolute rock solid lifelong commitment to a Philippians 4:8 lifestyle. This scripture, more than any other, really captures who I am. I’m a goody-two-shoes and always have been. It’s sort of pathetic. But it’s better than wonderful and more than beautiful. Why make Phil 4:8 your way of life? Because Psalm 1, that’s why!
Every step of my life, in spite of my sin nature, God has guided and protected me; he has rewarded me and made me prosper; he has warmed my soul and kept my heart tender to his presence; and these things in spite of a good number of reasons to quit and give up on the Body of Christ. It’s a rough hewn group of people and it’s frankly nice to get away from it sometimes. But when I find myself pulling as far back as I ever have - ever before - it is then when I feel like I could write the ripest fiction in the world! If I could put down my thoughts on paper right then - strike while the iron’s hot - I could produce some page turners! But every single time I’ve sat down to give it a try I get a few sentences into it - one time a few paragraphs - and then I stop cold. I delete and write something else.
It’s not me.
My evil thoughts are mine and they’d serve no purpose to be anyone else’s. I can’t step outside of Philippians 4:8, not because of some mandate or some sense of obligation, but because I genuinely thrive in it. I feel it is right; meaning, I sense the rightness of it as I walk in it. It is a narrow path and I chose to walk it.
I have a missionary friend who reads my fiction - short stories, all - and loves them! In fact, she’s my biggest fan. And she and I have chatted for some time far below the surface level most friends do. She knows my struggle with testing the boundaries of Phil 4:8 and my wish to step far outside and throw caution to the wind! She’s even encouraged me to give it a try so that my fiction doesn’t get in a rut and become the same story over and over with different characters. In truth, I try and try.
But I can’t. And Psalm 1. That’s why.
I am like a tree which has been planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in season. I love life by the river! Better is one day? How about every day? I started travel writing at the encouragement of my wife who loved to read my stuff. My foray into fiction was sudden and unexpected - even by me. I never once thought of either as a form of worship, but my cavalier attitude towards the whole writing process has been challenged by my struggle with writing a villain as a main character.
My writing, in fact, is one of the ways I make an offering to God; my fiction especially. My main characters are invariably upright. It might make them predictable, even boring. The plots always twist to the unexpected, but they’re never dark. There’s truth and loveliness in them.
I was raised with the party line every church kid gets that you should “do everything as if unto the Lord” and frankly I hadn’t given the Lord one thought when I started writing fiction just for fun. It was just for fun! But it turns out, I am led by still waters - another great Psalm - and I write what I know. I know Southeast Asia, I've lived in Hong Kong and Thailand; I know 1800s, I'm a history teacher and it's my favorite era; I know Military, I'm a US Army veteran; and I know Missionary, having served as a missionary myself, but much to my surprise I also know Still Waters and they are reflected in my fiction; or does my fiction reflect them.
If you’ve never memorized Philippians 4:8 I challenge you to do so! Psalm 1 too! Lock these in your heart and meditate on them day and night. After a life spent in His courts planted by streams of water I am bearing fruit in this season and - oddly enough - it’s in the form of writing fiction, something I never imagined I would ever do.
And the Lord will watch over my coming and going both now and forevermore; another great Psalm. And so I find myself accidentally writing as an act of worship. I guess I'll just keep after it until something else comes along! Here here!