Allen Arnold loves the epic adventure God has set before him. From the mountains of Colorado, he leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries (led by John Eldredge). Before that, he spent 20 years in Christian Publishing - overseeing the development of more than 500 novels as founder and Publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction. He was awarded the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. But that doesn't really describe the man. Allen savors time with his family, craves the beach, drinks salsa by the glass, is hooked on the TV series "Once Upon a Time" and is passionate about helping storytellers tell better stories from an awakened heart.
- Stay with God -
As a former Fiction publisher and part of the Christian publishing community for twenty years, I heard (and used) the word “stay” quite frequently.
Authors were encouraged to:
* Stay with one publishing house for the long term (even though little within publishing houses or the industry stays constant)
* Stay the course – writing the same type of story again and again (even though God rarely invites his followers and co-creators into a life of sameness)
* Stay relevant (a treadmill of impossibility because the social media tools held up as the way never stay the same. Chasing relevancy will wear you out.)
* Stay productive (which can be good – unless productivity replaces your ability to rest in God’s presence)
* Stay on top (God never promises us endless stories or rising sales with each book – nor does he measure our worth through bestseller lists)
Rarely did I hear the most essential use of the word.
Why isn’t that the number one shout-out we as creators hear every day? For some, it may feel unnecessary. Like encouragement to breathe. Even in writing this post, I had to push through the feeling that these words were not needed. That your reaction would be a shrug.
Thanks Captain Obvious. We’re good on that front.
Except that we’re usually not.
Not when it comes to staying close to God in a deep way as we create.
Every night as I tuck my children in bed, I tell them I love them. They sigh, “I know, dad...you tell us that allllllllll the time.”
Good. Exactly. Yes!
Because it is the most important thing I can tell them.
And to stay with God?
That is the most important thing I can tell you.
I now grasp how essential – and unfortunately rare – this encouragement is within the Christian creative community. I know because I’ve worked with more than 500 authors. I regularly speak to both first-time and best-selling novelists at writer’s conferences. Many of my best friends are writers.
And I see, just below the surface, how many are overwhelmed, disheartened, and burnt-out. Or their validation gets tied to the success of their stories, with good or bad days being determined by Amazon rankings or hitting word counts rather than how well they stayed with God that day.
As I looked back at my time as publisher, I asked myself why I didn’t offer these words of life more often to authors. The honest answer is I didn’t really understand how to go after the hearts of writers then. It’s hard to offer to others from a well you yourself haven’t learned to drink from yet. At that time in my life, I didn’t feel I needed the reminder to “stay with God” each day. I was good, thank you. Doing work for God, thank you. Trying to be the best publisher I could and too busy running a division to slow down, thank you.
And maybe I unconsciously assumed within Christian publishing that staying close to God just kind of happened to us all through osmosis. We’re Christians who are busy writing and publishing. Books are hitting the bestseller lists. We’re good. Now, let’s get on with the work.
That was then.
God has since given me a passion to go after the hearts of writers – offering them an invitation to not primarily write about or even for God...but to write with him.
We get so busy doing that we can forget how to be still and approach our art as holy ground. Maybe that’s why some Christian speakers, books, and conferences end up focusing almost all of their time teaching writers about craft and how to get published – and so little time on how to actually create with God.
Both are needed – but one is foundational. Yes, we need Christian writers at the top of their craft. And the world of tips and techniques seems so practical and productive while the part about creative intimacy with God seems nice but, well, a bit...fuzzy or soft. Do you feel the subtle pull? Resist it – because what we most need are storytellers who have first been transformed by their walk with God.
Learning the art of creating with God is at the heart of your calling. Enter into his presence, savor his gift of storytelling, and run together on the playground of ideas and imagination. Stories of eternal significance are only born as we spend time with the Creator – thinking his thoughts, following his lead, dancing at his rhythm.
The Staying Psalm
When we stray from this primal “stay”, we will always find ourselves in a creative desert. The path that got us there may be one of great success or painful rejection. Either way, we end up weary and alone in the burning sand. Thirsty for living water.
Staying with God is your way out of isolation, out of formula and out of striving. Far more, it is your way to never write alone again.
Psalm 27:14 offers us four deep truths for a life of freedom and intimacy with God. It says:
Stay with God!
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God
I find it fascinating how the psalmist offers only four steps – yet the invitation to stay with God is both his first and last plea. Why repeat these words instead of offering us something new at the end?
I think it’s because we forget. That and sometimes we, like the blind man with Jesus, just need his second touch to see more clearly what is before us.
So may this serve as your invitation to remember.
What God most wants
is simply for you to stay close.
He desires it enough to say it twice.
Think of the huge difference it would make in your life – and your writing – if you could really stay with God, truly take heart and finish well (not quit). It could change everything.
Dan Walsh and I will be expanding on these topics in four keynote messages at the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference August 4th – 7th, 2014. We’d be honored if you could join us for what promises to be one of the most significant events for writers this year.