A Conversational Door

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I’ve had a lot of fun at book store signings asking people as they walk by, “What are you reading these days?”  As you can imagine, I get a lot of different answers.

Some will stop with an expression that lights up their face. They’ll mention a book title or an author.  Usually that’s enough to strike up a conversation that is mutually satisfying.

When I asked one man what he was reading, he looked at me as though with x-ray eyes, searching for my thoughts behind my words.  He countered my question without looking at the books or display.

“What are you writing?”

“Christian fiction.”

His brow clouded.  “What does that mean?”

“It means my faith is central to how I understand life, people, things that happen.  I build a story around that, offering it to folks for entertainment, and maybe more.  Maybe someone will find encouragement or hope through my faith perspective.”

“Ah, that’s not for me.  I’m an agnostic.”  He waved his hand as he started turning away.

I shrugged.  “That’s your faith perspective.”

He turned back toward me.  “No, I don’t have a faith.  I don’t believe in a god or any of that.  I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t work for me.”

“Then your faith perspective is that life is hopelessly confusing and without purpose.  It’s all pure chance, or maybe unknowable.  I don’t believe that, so I write from a different perspective.”

He picked up a copy of A Change of Heart and thumbed through it.  “Nah, that’s not for me.”  He put it back on the table.

I reached to shake his hand.  “Maybe not.  Maybe it will be later.  Have a blessed day.”

As he walked away he said over his shoulder, “You, too.”

That was a surprise, perhaps to both of us.  It’s one of the fascinating conversations when I asked “What are you reading these days?”  There have been responses quite the opposite.  Some people have answered very quickly, without even pausing, “The Bible!  That’s all I need!”

Bang!

Gone!

If given a chance I might mention that each of my books is built around a Bible passage.  Sometimes in conversation I reveal that I’m a retired pastor and an artist.  I write from the worlds I know from my own experience.

I believe a book is always a form of conversation.  I write fiction because it gives me the freedom to structure interaction with people around situations, personalities, circumstances, and often decisions that are deeply personal.  All my life I have found in fiction a pathway for validation of my own experiences and reflections in life.  I hope I can help that happen for others.

“What are you reading these days?”  I think I’ll keep asking the question.  There’s nothing like sharing a good read to open a conversational door.  Oh, and often the conversation sells a book or two!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RETREADING

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For the last two-and-a-half years, the tires on my car have given me great service.  Never a flat.  Rotated and balanced regularly.  Expected treadwear of 48,000 miles/my experience just short of 47,000 miles.  I’m satisfied!

Now, here’s the rub.  No matter how great the treadwear, the time has come when I need to replace these old tires.   Will the new ones be as good as the first set on the car?  What brand is best?  Decisions, decisions.  Solution:  I’m satisfied with the old tires, so I’ll replace them with the same make and grade.   Problem solved.  Replacement scheduled.

Going through this has reminded me of when I used to buy RETREADS to replace worn tires.   It was in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Those were my student years.  After my release from the army, I entered Bridgewater College in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.   We didn’t have student loans in those days.  To pay my way, I served as a part-time student pastor in a circuit of four Methodist churches.  I lived near campus and traveled 35 miles one way to work several times a week.  Talk about treadwear!  I wore down tires quickly.

So I relied on retreads–tires that were processed so that a new tread was bonded onto an old casing.  They weren’t guaranteed for anything like 48,000 miles–but they were cheaper at the time of replacement.  That made sense then. I don’t know if they still make retreaded tires for cars, but I do see remnants of them from trucks and trailers on the highway.  It doesn’t matter–I’m not in the market for that anymore.  I like 48,000 miles!

Come to think of it, tires are not the only places where I’ve had retreads in my life.  Going into the ministry was a retread–I had planned to study architecture when I got out of the Army.  God had other ideas.  I’m glad he did!  So the ministry was a retread.  There were some others.  In the process of getting a liberal arts education I wore out some old ideas and retreaded my thinking with new concepts and understandings.  That continued in seminary–and on through the years that followed.

Another retread came after I retired from the ministry.  I’d been a professional artist alongside my ministry for years, so I decided to retread that into a full-time business, producing and selling my art.  That put a new tread on the old casing of my life, but that wasn’t the end.  A few years ago I dusted off something I’d played with for decades–the idea of writing a novel.  I retreaded my retirement by becoming a writer, and now have three published novels out, along with a non-fiction book I wrote with my wife.  As a writer I think I’m still running on some pretty good tread.

So what’s next?  What will be the next retread?  Maybe it will be the retread of a new body and a fresh life in the awesomeness of God’s eternal grace.  That’s not a retread, however.  It’s a matter of finally getting to the state of being for which I’ve been created from the beginning!  Thanks be to God.