Friday, November 27, 2009

How To Write a Bestseller

On my 13 hour plane ride to and from Beijing last month I read Don Miller’s new book,  A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  Quirky, different… and very compelling. It has to be on your reading list this year.

Miller’s theme is story.  We are all living a story.  But some are living better stories than others. God gives you liberty to live a great story or a pretty sorry story. 

But here’s what hit me when I finished the book, God gives you a co-author to help you write the very best story. We could even call him a ghostwriter… the Holy Spirit. 

How to Write a Tragedy

The problem is, all too often we want to write the story on our own.  We refuse to listen to the whispers and proddings of the One who writes with us, and we end up writing a tragedy. 

It’s pretty obvious when someone is in the middle of writing a bad story.  Their lives fill with anger, deceit, jealously, conflict, bitterness… you’ve seen it before.

A few years ago I returned to the LA area where I used to be a youth pastor and walked into a restaurant and saw the mother of a couple of my former students.  So I walked over to her with a big smile to say hi… but then slowed down.  Because the man she was sitting with was not her husband.  “Oh, Palmer, great to see you.  Let me introduce you to my friend Bob.”  I didn’t want to meet Bob. 

I must have had some odd look on my face because the next thing she blurted was, “The boys are fine Palmer.”  She had five. “They’re big now, you know.”  The youngest was five. 

You see what I mean, she was in the middle of writing a very tragic story.  A story filled with brokenness, sorrow, aloneness, and nauseating regret. 

Even the Bible is filled with stories like that.  Cain wrote a story that was about jealousy.  Boaz wrote a story about loneliness.  Gomer’s story was about shame.  David wrote a story about unfaithfulness.  They were all writing tragedies. 


Maybe you are not writing a tragedy but maybe your life is just drivel. It’s not that our stories are bad stories, it’s just that sometimes there’s not much of a story.

Everybody wants to write beautiful prose with their life.  We want dramatic moments, we want to make the audience to gasp and applaud… but then we settle for drivel. 

But here’s the truth, life doesn’t just happen to you, you are the screenwriter. The story that will be written is up to you… but then we let ourselves live in writers block – and nothing happens.

While in China we traveled the Great Wall outside Beijing.  On the way, our overly talkative tour guide, Adam, began to tell us about Marco Polo.  Among too many lines, this one stuck with me. Adam explained that Marco Polo once said, “Everyone’s life is a book, but for those who never travel their book has only one page.”   

Because of this thought I’ve begun inviting the people of The Grove to travel to Africa with me and ride dirt bikes in Liberia.  Here’s why.  We have about 2,000 pairs of shoes in a shipping container in our parking lot headed to Liberia, and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to distribute them.  Then this exhilarating thought hit me. How about when our team travels to Africa next June I put about half a dozen people on dirt bikes everyday and send them into the Liberian jungle; down bush trails, deep into the rainforest with big boxes of shoes strapped to the back of a dirt bike, to give to pastors and village leaders. 

I have 123 people signed up now for the trip.  I think they all want to ride dirt bikes down jungle trails.  We may need to hold tryouts. 

Your life doesn’t have to be drivel, your story can become riveting if you’re just willing to take a few risks. 

If you are content with a weak relationship with God, then don’t listen to his spirit.

If you are content with a some-what-moral life, then don’t listen to his spirit.

If you are content to daydream and just not do much with you life, then don’t listen to his spirit

If you have little ambition of doing much to change what is broken in this world, then don’t listen to his spirit.

A Better Story Starts Now

This story the Holy Spirit is whispering on your heart requires action.  You must move.  You must respond.  You must do something good.  And it all starts now.  Right now. 

While riding a bullet train heading north to the gritty Chinese city of Siping I was reading the China Times, when this article grabbed my attention.  “Foreign Hero Saves Six.”  The article explained that in the Guizhou Province, construction scaffolding collapsed with hundreds of bags of concrete, trapping six people beneath the pile.  But then I read these words, “A muscular African-American man in a white t-shirt and blue jeans ran to their rescue and began throwing bags off concrete off the suffocating people.”  Singlehandedly he saved all six… then walked away into the night.  The Governor of the province is searching for this hero to honor him.

By the time I finished reading the article, I wanted to be that muscular, African-American man in a white t-shirt and blue jeans tossing fifty pound bags of concrete like they were pillows. 

That’s the kind of story I want to live.

Do you see how the very best stories require action on your part. 

How to Write a Best Seller

Writing a great story starts with this simple idea, listen more for the leading of the Holy Spirit.  God has put his spirit in your life for that very reason.  Pay more attention on this day, today.

Today the page is blank.

Today the story starts fresh -- if that’s what you need.

Today you can begin a new story, a better story.

Your story is not written yet… you write it right now.