Besides being a pastor, father, husband and author, what other activities do you find to be life giving and that bring you joy?
I have always enjoyed sports and am a pretty avid New England sports fan, which of course has been quite rewarding of late. Gayline and I love to take walks, eat good sushi, and hang with grand-kids (all twelve with another on the way). Nothing like fresh air, good food, an evening of jazz, and some grand-kid hugs.
I also enjoy writing poetry, though I am by no means a poet—not in any kind of super-creative “wow, how did he come up with that beautiful thought or turn of phrase” kind of way. For me poetry is something to have some fun with, and, when it happens just right, a way to head even deeper into something I’m pondering or enjoying. I also love reading biographies and history.
With as busy a schedule as you have, how did you make time for writing?
For me, writing is a relaxing and enjoyable mixture of ministry and creativity. If not for the substantial message that I think God wants me to communicate, I’d be tempted to call it my hobby. It is different from sermon preparation, or any of the myriad writing projects that pastoral ministry involves. Writing is a way to create while serving—which I find to be a delightful blend.
For this reason, I do not hesitate to write on my own time. In fact, I do all my writing on my own time; outside normal church ministry time. But keep in mind, I now live in an empty nest. No kids at home means that I can put in a full day for the church and still have time for writing at the end of the day. While I have wanted to write since my twenties, I chose deliberately to put it on hold until it would not interfere with church and family life. There’s a time to raise kids and a time to send them off. A time to study and give oneself to reading, and a later time to write and—if God should so will—reap the blessings of those years of sowing. I hope now that my time for reaping through writing lasts for years to come.
In looking back on the writing and publishing process so far, do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
I have thoroughly enjoyed the writing process, and working with the folks at P&R. Their eagerness to coach along an eager rookie has been so encouraging, and their patience with my endless questions has been appreciated. Plus, their labors in the editing process are so committed that I feel a measure of confidence that the end product will at least not be an embarrassment!
But I am still a rookie, and hardly dare to give much writing advice. Might be the blind leading the blind. That said, I would encourage people to write about something that matters; something that they have spent a good long time ruminating over; something that connects God to life and gives people more of God and the gospel; something that is taught and tested by Scripture and essential in the real world.
What has God taught you about yourself through the process of writing this book?
He has taught me that I have never stopped needing that which I am writing. The practice of listening and talking in a way that reflects human worth and respects the image is never mastered. I experienced moments in writing when I felt unworthy to write; moments in which I felt like crying because I knew I had not lived up to the sacred and beautiful standard of the Word; times when some who might read my words will probably think: “Yeah. Tim writes about communication but I sure wish he had done it better when he interacted with me.”
Those were tough moments which left me feeling heartbroken on the one hand and vulnerable on the other. That’s another thing: vulnerability. The closer release date has come, the more vulnerable I have felt. Books cannot be taken back. Errors cannot be erased once published. And the eyes of critics will discern mistakes in my writing about which I am currently clueless. I’m learning to trust God to do with this what he desires and to minimize any damage my mistakes might cause. He is kind and gracious that way, for which I am thankful.
What would you like to see happen in the life of your readers once the book comes out?
Honestly, I would like people to take this seriously. I am fully convinced that a failure to communicate well—to listen and talk in a way that respects the image of God in others—is a failure to love. I am convinced that marriages are failing, ethnic divisions are widening, churches are splitting, parents and kids are fighting, employers and employees are squabbling, and class warfare is intensifying, all because people are failing to know and diligently apply the truth, that they are listening to and talking with creatures destined for immortality. I’m hoping for life-change; massive lights going on in human hearts by which a better way is seen and followed!
I’d like for families to sit down together and strike a pact to live by a new set of rules—all saturated with God and the gospel. I’d like for churches and pastoral teams and racially divided factions to sit down with the Bible in hand and say, “From now on we are going to do life and love in a different kind of way—a way that refuses to play by the old rules of self and anger and rationalized hostility; and chooses respect, humility, and love instead.”
That may sound like a grandiose ambition, but it reflects what I believe to be the power of truth as applied by the Spirit to the heart. And I have seen it work in families, in multi-ethnic dialogue, and where human tensions once prevailed.
Tim’s new book, Respect the Image, releases on Wednesday, February 5th. You can pre-order it now.