Interview with spirituality writer Gary Thomas

Gary Thomas is a bestselling author in Houston, Texas, where he is a Writer in Residence at Second Baptist Church. An avid runner who has completed eleven marathons, he is married and has three children.

gary-thomas photoI wrote Every Body Matters because I was struck by how often gluttony and sloth are addressed in the ancient devotional books, but rarely even mentioned from today’s pulpit. It’s also been a natural progression in my own walk with the Lord. As a young man, my metabolism and penchant for running hid a lot of food-based indulgence, but while it didn’t show physically, it was having spiritual consequences. The church should be in the forefront of addressing this issue, not struggling to catch up.

A man once came up to me and explained how his wife had decided to leave him. As she was packing up to move out the next day, she knocked over his copy of Sacred Marriage and saw the subtitle (What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?). It intrigued her, so she started reading, then woke up her husband in the middle of the night and said she wanted to give it another try. The man had an 18-month-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. I was moved by how God could use a book subtitle, and a few chapters, to change the course of a marriage and to provide a more stable home life for these two kids.

I appreciate Francis De Sales for the way he makes spirituality so practical for laypeople; Brother Lawrence for renewing my desire to bask in God’s presence; Fenelon for his ability to communicate about the spiritual life; and Henry Drummond for applying his brilliant mind to unlock practical aspects of spiritual growth. Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God is probably the easiest for people to read. I wrote Thirsting for God to introduce the writings of the Christian classics, so that’s another place to start.

I read some of my book’s reviews, because there are always things to learn, and because the reviews are usually encouraging more than discouraging. But then there are the crazy ones that seem so unfair—not that long ago, a man gave one of my books a poor rating saying, “I haven’t actually read it yet, but I flipped through it and I’m suspicious.” What’s the point of that? Some reviews point out blind spots (many said I’m harder on men in Sacred Marriage than women, which is true); others tell me more about the reviewer than anything else.

I love to read. I love to study. I love to write, and even re-write. And morning is my favorite time of the day. Put that together, and I can honestly say, though I’ve been actively writing/publishing for almost 20 years now, I have never suffered from significant “writer’s block.” Now, because of my duties as a teaching pastor, I don’t have all day to write like I used to; it’s compacted into a couple hours in the morning, but that’s enough if you’re faithful with it.

Susan Howatch is among my favorite novelists, though she isn’t writing too much these days. I lean toward literary fiction more than commercial fiction, but I also read a good bit of history. Because I’m an avid runner, I usually read a few running-related books every year as well.

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