The Time I Went to a Writers’ Conference and It Wasn’t About My Writing

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Last night, I returned home after attending the ACFW conference, and I can’t wait to share what God did there. It was A-MA-ZING. Really, truly amazing.

For starters, He provided the opportunity for me to go. People, that’s no small thing for a mom of five who’s writing career reports its profits in cents to make it sound bigger.  But God has always been gracious to provide all we need and more than a few of our wants, so I am grateful.

God also afforded me a chance to stay in the hotel along with the three best roommates a girl could ask for. Seriously! The four of us met for the first time on Thursday and had the equivalent of a slumber party for the next couple of nights, complete with lots of laughs and great conversation.

All three of them are writers, of course. Ann Stewart and Abbey Downey are already published authors. And I’m beyond excited for Rebecca Reed who will probably join the ranks of the published soon. I’ve linked their names with one of their social media outlets. I encourage you to check them out.

As for my own conference experience, it was… different. I confess a bit of discouragement on Friday. Of my three assigned appointments, none was with an agent or editor who worked within the genera of my novel.

At some point, I took a break to walk and talk with the Lord (which at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is almost like outdoor walking but without the Tennessee humidity). While we communed together, I asked Him, “Lord, what am I even doing here?”

He reminded me of the passage I’d read in Acts 11 that morning, impressing on me the idea, “What do I usually have you do?”

So I asked him to direct me to people who needed prayer during the rest of the conference.

Saturday found me stalking random people for the purpose of praying for them. OK, technically I only stalked one because for some reason, the Lord put this man particularly on my heart. After I prayed for him, he told me the prayer resonated with him because his life verse was Galatians 1:10. I promised to look it up. When I did, I couldn’t suppress a giant grin. In that verse was an echo of what the Lord laid on my heart to pray.

Our God is so, so good.

Another time, I felt the familiar nudge as I was walking with a lady I’d met earlier, so I asked her if I could pray for her. When we finished, she looked at me oddly and then shared some details of her week. Once again, the words God put on my heart were apt for her.

Then there was an elevator encounter with a man who stepped off before I thought of prayer. As the door slid closed behind him, I realized I’d missed it. I asked, “Lord if you want me to pray for him, provide another chance.”

He did. So I did.

There were quite a few more but only two are really worthy of note. One of them is a pretty funny illustration of my own tendency to be oblivious of certain cultural norms. Stick with me and I’ll explain.

It happened as I walked to my next workshop Saturday afternoon. On the way, I spied a delightful speaker I’d heard earlier exiting a conference room. In her session, she’d shared how the Lord gave her joy in cancer, and I felt a desire to pray for her.

With this aim, I walked up to her with a smile. But she was talking with a man (her husband, I think) and their conversation provided no opportunity for me to break in without being rude.

The art of awkward lurking being my particular specialty, I continued to hang around and in hopes of a moment to pray with her. The man once met my eyes, but something about their body language seemed intentionally closed, so I gave it up.

The speaker was a lady named Liz Curtis Higgs who wrote a book I remember my mom and aunt talking about years ago. I guess she’s something of a Christian celebrity, so I suppose that explains the strange body language. Without a doubt, the two probably suspected me of stalking – something I find hilarious in retrospect!

Anyway, I prayed for her, just not with her.

But one of my favorite moments occurred over lunch on Saturday. Throughout the conference, one older man caught my attention, maybe because he reminded me of a friend’s dad. On Saturday, this gentleman gave his ticket to the evening’s gala to one of my roomies so she could give it to me.

After lunch, I ended up talking with him and discovered he has a neuro-degenerative disorder that’s so rare, it doesn’t even have a name. He was absolutely delightful, and I not only enjoyed hearing a bit of his story, I  also relished the privilege of praying for him.

Ironically enough, I ended up leaving before the gala anyway because I didn’t feel well. I have a sneaking suspicion the whole ticket thing occurred for the purpose of prayer.

But the most ironic bit of all is this fact: When I signed up to attend the ACFW conference, I thought I was attending to benefit my career. Instead, my Redeemer awarded me unbelievable joy in praying for others.  My Saturday experience was Psalm 16:18 made manifest as I enjoyed the company of my Father and my many brothers and sisters in Christ!

What about you? Ever had an experience you thought would go one way, but God did something you never would have guessed instead? I’d love to hear about it!







Preach It, Brother!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
(Romans 1:16-18)

There’s a concept bouncing around here and there in my nation’s church culture, and it’s one I have always found rather odd. It’s the idea of a letter, article, devotional, or what-have-you being too “preachy.”

As a semi-aspiring author I’ve also found numerous submission guidelines cautioning against preachiness. And if I may be frank, I don’t get it.

For one, “preachiness” is subjective. I wonder sometimes if we get preachiness confused with conviction? What one man finds preachy, another may find wakes him up to some truth he’d previously been deceived about. Still another may pass it over without a second thought either way.

But for the most part (and pardon me if I slip into my native East Tennessean here):

Y’all! Since when are we afraid of a little good, old-fashioned preachin’?

Now when I write of preaching, I do not mean hatefulness. There’s a vast gulf between preaching truth and spewing spite and venom.

Real preachiness is twofold, stemming first from God’s Word and secondly from a sincere desire to see other people saved from what the Lord calls “the outer darkness” (or sometimes the fiery furnace) where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (see Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 50, Luke 13:28, et al).

Or as Paul puts it:

…I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
(Romans 9:2-3)

As I’ve been reading and studying through Romans for several weeks now, it amuses me to imagine Paul, Peter, James, and some of the others looking for a market for their letters in today’s social climate. Goodness, a good percentage of the Word of God is preachy, even in-you-face confrontational.

In my own experience with the Lord, it was not positive and upbeat snippets of devotional thought which brought me to bow the knee before the King of kings. It was through the preachiness of good expository speaking and writing, verified by the words of Scripture itself, and stirred up to Godly grief which lead to repentance by the Holy Spirit.

Church, if someone’s called to preach it, let him preach it! We each have a job to do for the Kingdom, and part of that job is holding one another accountable to the Word of Truth.

So unless someone preaches a different gospel, let ’em preach on, whether you like the tone or not. Perhaps you are not the divinely intended target.

But what if you are? I’ve only walked with the Lord for around 2 decades, but in that time, He has kept me diligent in my reading and study of His Word. One thing I’ve learned when I find my feathers ruffled by a writing or teaching is to take it before Him in prayer and with my Bible open before me.

Sometimes the teaching is erroneous, and I sigh in relief since I’m not the one in need of chastisement.

But other times… Well.

My first question when I take these matters to the Lord is whether or not my reaction to preachiness is actually conviction. It is all too easy to confuse the two.

So maybe when we find ourselves chaffed by some preachy article, it’s time to do a prayerful heart check. It could be a message we need to hear, exposing something God wants us to address. Or it could be a message for someone else.

And yes, it could be a flaw in the writer. But as Romans 8 says, God really does work all things for the good of those who love Him – which includes learning from our mistakes.

After all, each of us is ultimately accountable to God. And He does discipline His children when we step out of line. Trust me on that one.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
(2 Timothy 4:1-2)