Stay with God ~ Allen Arnold

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.
Stay…with God.
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!
Take heart.
Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God
(The
Message)
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.