Sunday, June 1, 2014

"In Between" Times - Time to Refresh Your Heart and Spirit
Most of the time when we attend writer's conferences, we're looking for help to get our writing careers moving. We want to find out how to take the next step, how to open the next door of opportunity. Or maybe we've found the opportunities already and we're looking for information, skills, or techniques to maximize them: how to use social networking to get known, how to sell more books... But sometimes, we're in an "in between" time. Maybe we're in between major projects, or major disappointments. (Tweet that!) Or maybe we're simply in between where we have been and are deciding where to go next. Possibly we're tired, headed for burnout (or already there), and need our hearts and spirits refreshed somehow. (Tweet that!)

That's pretty much where I was this year leading up to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. After experiencing some major disappointments, after seeing work I had lined up evaporate before my eyes (like so many others), I'm in an "in between" time. In between projects. In between disappointments. That's not a bad place to be. It's a good time to re-evaluate, and perhaps gain a new or fresh perspective.

So when I went to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference this year, I didn't schedule any appointments to meet with any editors or agents. I didn't plan to pitch any new ideas. As a faculty member, I met with other conferees who wanted my help and advice, but I also blocked off times for no meetings so I could attend workshops. And even with that, my time slots to meet with others weren't filled completely like they often are. While it was still a very busy time, I took time out to seek what I wanted and needed.

So what did I want or need? This year, I wanted something refreshing. Instead of more "how to" information on how to write a better book or how to sell more or how to get a foothold in a larger chunk of the publishing world, I wanted something refreshing like a cool drink of water for a parched and thirsty soul. I didn't know what that would be, but I was hoping to find it.

I wasn't disappointed.

Before the conference, I looked at all the workshops offered, hoping to find something new to fill that dry, empty place in me. I found a couple of continuing sessions that looked refreshing. (A "continuing session" is five workshops - totaling 6 hours - throughout the conference by the same presenter on the same topic.) I settled on the one offered by Allen Arnold called "The Heart of the Storyteller." Allen also was the keynote speaker Thursday morning, and he titled his talk "Awakening the Writer's Heart." Allen's workshops were everything I was hoping for.

I'd like to offer you a taste of what I gleaned from Allen's first workshop and his keynote.

Allen began by talking about our "calling" as writers. He meant, of course, our calling from or by God. I realize not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian. If you're not a Christian, I hope you won't tune out. I hope you'll read on, out of curiosity if nothing else. Because I guess I'll just go ahead and admit here publicly that whenever Christian writers begin to talk about being "called" by God to write, I get the nervous crawlies in the pit of my stomach. (Tweet that!)

That's because in my opinion hearing a "calling" from God can be tricky business. Some Christians carefully discern what they hear from God and that's good. Sometimes people make assumptions that what they "hear" is from God. When people talk about "callings," it's hard for the rest of us to tell the difference, so it's important to be discerning ourselves.

I liked that Allen Arnold talked to us about being "called" by God to write. In twenty-five years, I've heard little or no talking done about it. And it's such an important topic. Doesn't it deserve some discussion, if not some training in how to discern whether or not we've been called by God to write? (Or been called by Him to any other area?)

In my experience, it seems that when you jump into Christian publishing, if you stick around for a while then there's an assumption that you've been "called" to write. (Some people come to Christian writers conferences and discover they have not been called to write, and that's okay too. That's an important discovery to make, and it's progress on the journey to whatever path God calls us to.)

I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say to me, just in passing conversation, that I've been called to write. Again, the nervous crawlies in my stomach. Not so fast there, partner. Just because I'm doing this, and have been for twenty-five years now, doesn't mean we can assume God called me to write.

Honestly, I've never know what it sounds like to hear God call a person to write. So it was really interesting to hear some of the others in the class talk about how God called them. Some of they heard it "audibly," as in that Voice you can hear in your head sometimes that is clearly outside of you and is clearly God speaking to you alone. Some of you have experienced that. Others described circumstances that made it clear this is what God wanted them to do. One described actually seeing the Lord when He told her to write.

It must be nice to have such wonderful, concrete assurance that writing is what you're "supposed" to be doing. ("Supposed" is in quotes there because God loves us right where we are, meaning He loves us even if we're not "doing" for Him. But anyway...)

Allen Arnold challenged us to go  back and remember when and how God "called" us to write. Then he followed that by asking us, "Why did you say yes?" (Tweet that!) Because the "why" behind something is more important than the "what," he said.

Allen said that another way to think of a "calling" from God is as an invitation to join Him. What is He inviting you to join Him in creating?

Does that sound like a totally new take to you? It did to me. A refreshing new take. Allen said (please keep in mind this is from my own memory and so filtered through my own thoughts), that no matter what profession (or "calling") you are in, the real thing God is calling each of us to is intimacy with Him.  (Tweet that!) I know that is true.

So when you look at "calling," and the question "What is God calling me to?," it becomes more of a question of "What can we create together?" And in that act of creation, together with God, we work with Him and get to know Him better and so we come to a more intimate relationship with Him.

To me, this is such a refreshing idea! Why? Because it takes the pressure off. Instead of having a list of...or several piles of...projects sitting out there before me, and instead of asking, "Okay God. Which of this projects are you calling me to complete?," the question becomes, "What do you want to do together?"

God is inviting (calling) you to do something with Him. Together. Just the two of you. And it may be for just the two of you. Or it may be something you will share with the rest of us when you're done. It doesn't matter. What matters is spending time with Him, your loving Father, and doing something together that let's you spend time together. That lets you discover more of Him -- His gentleness. His kindness. His amazing creativity. Perhaps at the top of the list of importance is discovering that yes, He wants to be in conversation with you. Speaking with you. Communicating with you! Creating with you.

I remember Allen paining this beautiful scene with his words to us: Imaging that you're in a beautiful place, and before you is a coral with a couple of horses. They are all saddled and ready to go. At the far end of the coral, sitting on the top rail, with his cowboy hat shading his face, is the Lord God. And He simply asks you one question: "Do you want to ride?"

Everything is there. He has provided it all. It's waiting. It's ready to go. And if you want to go for a ride with Him, then get on a horse and let's ride. But if you don't want to... If you're not ready, or if you're afraid, or if there's any other "if," that's okay. He's not going to be upset with you or angry. He'll wait. In the cool of the day, in the beauty of the surroundings, He's just asking, "Do you want to go for a ride?"(Tweet that!)

I love that.

So this month, as the cool beauty of spring heads into the heat of summer, I hope you'll take some time "in between." Get some rest. Enjoy the beauty around you. Refresh. Remember why you're writing. Have you been "called" by God? If yes, when? How? Why did you say yes? (Tweet that!)

If not, or if you're not sure, ask Him. Ask God what He has invited you to do with Him. Not for Him. Not to give to Him when it's done. But create with Him. Then really listen. These may be ideas that you need to wrestle with Him about. I know I do. And believe it or not, I find that wrestling refreshing.

Thanks, Allen Arnold, for your teaching last week. I'm still drinking it in.

As a matter of fact, I purchased all five of Allen's workshops on CDs so I could hear them again (and again) and hear the parts I missed due to other conference happenings. Even if you weren't there, you can order these CDs here: Colorado Christian Writers Conference 2014 CD Order Form. You want to order the first line under "Continuing Sessions": "Heart of the Storyteller - Allen Arnold" (C1A through C1E). That's five CDs.

So what do you say? Do you want to ride?

Related Articles:

You may also be interested in this interview with Allen Arnold by Donna Brennan.

Reminders and Fun New Stuff !

  • If you haven't seen it yet, my newest book is now available. You can find it at the usual online stores or order it from your local bookstore. See it here on Amazon: Prophecies Fulfilled in the Life of Jesus. When you get it, read the last seven chapters first! That's where I wrote about the lunar eclipses. The first of the four occurred on April 15th. You can learn about their spiritual importance in those seven chapters on the seven Feasts of the LORD.

  • Looking for a fun new way to share your books, blogs, or other products? My new Moo mini-business cards were a huge hit at the conference. Moo will print up to 100 different images on the back of a single pack of mini cards using their "Printfinity" option. I used this to put the covers of my three latest "Prophecies Fulfilled" books on new cards, and then on the other side I put information about my new "Bible Prophecies Fulfilled" blog.  If you want some Moo mini business cards, please use my affiliate link here: