Whenever I tell Bernice and my Graceworks team that I am working on a book, and give a tentative deadline for finishing it, I am met with knowing smiles. Based on past experience they know that they should add about a year to that date. I find writing very difficult.
I am most alive when I am preaching or teaching. It’s live. I receive people’s reactions to these ministries in real time. Which is why I prefer speaking in smaller halls where I am able to see the faces of the audience. If I were a rock musician I would prefer to sing in intimate cafes, not in large stadiums, which means I would probably starve to death.
The other ministry I am partial to is having conversations with people in the context of mentoring, pastoral care and spiritual direction. This is harder for me than preaching, but again it is something that is “live” and I get to interact with people in real time.
But writing is a lonely activity. It’s me and the computer. There is no immediate response to the stuff that I write. That would come much later if it comes at all. Starved of immediate interaction, writing feels like swimming upstream against the tide. Still, I feel that I should make more effort, with the Lord’s help, to be that salmon/author.
Recently I turned 63. I checked the obituaries that day and the days following and found a number of folks who had died at age 63 or younger. I was reminded afresh that I am alive by God’s mercy. My time is not my own. I am but a steward of my life. So, I need to consult the Owner of my life about how I am to spend my life in whatever remaining time He chooses to entrust to me.
Turning 63 is also another reminder that I must be more intentional in how I spend my time. It’s as though you had been given $100 to spend and you have spent $80. You would give much more thought to how you will spend the remaining $20.
I was reminded recently that if I count preaching/teaching among one of my primary gifts, I should also be training and empowering others to preach and teach as well. That would expand this ministry and, indeed, if the folks I train are younger than me, and they probably will be, I will see this ministry outlive me.
Related to this would be more investment in the ministry of mentoring. I do not need fresh reminding of the importance of mentoring. I have lived long enough to see the fruit of the mentoring I did 30, 40 years ago. And the Lord continues to bring key people into my life. I should pay more attention to them.
Finally, there is the writing. I hope to write the following (tentative titles).
* Call Discernment: The ABC of Discovering Your Vocation
* Friends in Transition: The Challenge of Young Adult Ministry
* Life Stewardship: A Biblical and Practical Approach to Time Management
* The Big Picture: The Good News of the Kingdom
* Discipleship Re-defined: A Relational Definition of Discipleship
I have started on the first one but have had to stop because of other commitments and a rather bad cough. I need to finish the Life Stewardship book by next year because I am committed to another publisher to do that one. And if I give myself two years for each book, this will take me into my 70s if I don’t go home to the Lord before then and if He has not yet returned.
I am encouraged by Dr James Houston, one of my Regent professors. He turned 95 last year. Bernice and I met him when he dropped by Singapore in 2016. I told him that I had heard a rumour that he was in the midst of writing four books. He corrected me. He was in the midst of writing five. I suppose that some of those books may have to be completed in the new heavens and the new earth, but maybe not. Still, we are not called to speculate as to when our time on earth will end. We are to be faithful, working at our assignments till we meet Him.
But the hard truth is this: If I am to spend more time in training, mentoring and writing, I must do less speaking, but I realise that I am addicted to speaking, to a degree. It will be hard to turn down opportunities to speak. It’s therefore interesting that my devotional reading on my birthday was this:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25–27 NIV)