LANGLEY—When author Mike Mason signed up for a pilgrimage to Israel, he had just decided to call it quits as a writer. He didn’t realize the 10-day trip would change his life and his career.
It was 2012 and Mason, who had published a dozen children’s books, short stories, and devotionals, was “burnt out. I just finished a really difficult project and I decided to retire. I had never thought I would retire as a writer, but I was just that tired.”
Mason, who had dreamed of becoming a writer since he was 11 years old, was at a crisis point. He had never desired to travel to Israel before, but when the opportunity came up, he took it.
“For me it was such an amazing trip. I felt the presence of Christ so much in all of these places,” said Mason, a member of St. Joseph’s Parish in Langley.
He and 11 other pilgrims saw Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, and many other historic places. Halfway through the trip, the group stopped on the Holy Steps, a stone stairway Jesus was said to have walked on many times, including after he was arrested.
“Not much has changed with the steps, except they have worn away to some extent,” said Mason. “They are still the steps he walked on.”
The stones in the Holy Land carry a strong sense of the presence of Jesus, wherever he touched them or was near them.
As Mason climbed them, thoughts about Jesus’ arrest and images of his disciples and the soldiers coming down the Mount of Olives flooded his mind. “From then I knew that the stones in the Holy Land carry a strong sense of the presence of Jesus, wherever he touched them or was near them.”
Then Mason, who at age 60 had sworn off writing any more books, was suddenly filled with ideas for a new project. Five years later, he has released his latest work, Jesus: His Story in Stone.
“Since then, I have been more excited about my writing than ever before.”
Jesus: His Story in Stone includes images of significant stones and sites in the Holy Land, along with short descriptions of their historic and archeological meanings. But most importantly, Mason said, this book is meant to be devotional.
“It has all this factual detail, but I really tried to make each chapter one that would bring the reader or help the reader to experience the presence of Christ,” said Mason.
He prays every time he sits down to write. “I do feel that’s my vocation: to use my writing to draw people closer to Christ. Writing for me is an extension of my prayer life.”
Mason, inspired by Catholic writers like Trappist monk Thomas Merton, has been writing devotional works since his conversion at age 28.
“That was the main thing I did for probably the next 20 years,” publishing titles including The Gospel According to Job (1994), The Mystery of Marriage (2005), and Champagne for the Soul (2006).
“I’m really in love with the way words can invoke the presence of Christ.”
Mason also happens to have an interest in geology and stone collecting; he selected half a dozen choice stones from the Holy Land to hold and reflect on as he wrote the book.
“Everywhere I go, and have all my life, I collect stones. To me, they are little art objects. They are little sculptures that can be so beautiful. They remind me of the different places that I’ve been.”
It wasn’t easy to publish Jesus: His Story in Stone. After Mason finished the tome, he submitted it to dozens of publishers. For the first time, the seasoned writer found no one wanted to take on his project.
“Nobody wanted to publish an expensive coffee table book.” So, Mason began releasing the chapters online in the form of blog posts. He released one section every two weeks for about a year and a half.
Then his wife, Karen, retired from her work as a family physician and felt very motivated to see her husband’s book in hardcover. She worked hard to get it in print, and the pair celebrated the book launch with friends and supporters in Langley Nov. 5.
“I’ve connected in a deeper way with my writing in these later years,” said Mason, who now regularly blogs and is working on a novel titled Angels and Aliens.
“Each project is a new challenge. It’s not the same thing over and over again and I expect I’ll always be doing that.”
Mason's newest book is available on Amazon.ca and at Christian bookstores in Langley, Abbotsford, and White Rock.