What kind of writing are we reading?

“I’m not being very clear,” I said. “I can’t find the words.”

I was talking with a friend about finding a different way to look at our work. Not to change anything, but to think through the way I look at it.


I like to be clear. I like to offer well-researched, well-reflected, well-crafted explanations of ideas, rooted in history, incorporating the present, shaping the future.

That’s what I like to do.

More accurately, would like to do.

Maybe not like the four-volume commentary on Acts you can see on my shelf, or the three-volume biography of Churchill or thick biography of Thomas Merton.

But what most often happens is scraps of ideas with hints of more behind them.


“I get what you mean,” my friend said.

Our interaction was a conversation about ways of thinking. And the words we were using and the pauses we were leaving were appropriate for the thinking we were doing. It wasn’t a finished volume on chaplaincy for the mid-pandemic, nor a memoir of the recent past. That wasn’t what we were trying to do.

When Mark’s gospel starts with a reference to Isaiah and then to John’s appearance in the wilderness with an invitation to repent, pausing for a glimpse of John, wearing a brown robe, holding his lunch, we want to say, “This isn’t how you write a biography.”

It feels more like notes you take as someone is talking about their life and work. Like when you are capturing family stories from your dad before he dies. It’s not everything that happened, and it’s not all the background of what happened. But it is the stories from someone who was there.

Though you want to know more, what you have may be enough to understand the heart of the story.


I’m starting to write about Mark. The photo with my bookshelf is from my podcast with Joel and Andy.

2 thoughts on “What kind of writing are we reading?

  1. Pingback: Telling stories. Building a picture. – 300 words a day

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